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Sodhi Gurbachan Singh Koshan Vs. Babu Ram and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. No. 617 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1969P& H201
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 500
AppellantSodhi Gurbachan Singh Koshan
RespondentBabu Ram and anr.
Appellant Advocate Puran Chand, Adv.
Respondent Advocate Y.P. Gandhi, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....was stated that the act complained of should, under the circumstances be legally wrongful as regards the party complaining; he also could not show what duty baboo ram had towards the petitioner which he had failed to perform. it is, therefore, clear that baboo ram cannot be held liable for damages in tort as well. 7. in view of what i have said above, i would dismiss this revision petition, leaving the parties, however, to bear their own costs in this court as well......printer and publisher of an under weekly named 'sach'. this paper was published from ludhiana. shakti parshad of village sangat pura sodhian, respondent no.2, was the representative of this paper at sirhind. baboo ram of hussain pura, respndent no.1, approach shakti parshad and informed him that the tahsildar at sirhind had, while disposing of evacuee property, situate in villag ehussain pura, made a lot of money by accepting more amounts from bidders and issuing receipts for lesser amounts to them. he gave his own example and stated that he had paid rs.250/- for one of such properties and the receipts issued to him was for rs. 50/- only. on 31-5-1961, baboo ram dictated this news to shakti parshad and then put his signatures on the manuscript. on enquiry from the former whether that.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. Sodhi gurbachan Singh, petitioner, was the Editor, printer and publisher of an under weekly named 'Sach'. This paper was published from Ludhiana. Shakti Parshad of village Sangat Pura Sodhian, respondent No.2, was the representative of this paper at Sirhind. Baboo ram of Hussain Pura, respndent NO.1, approach Shakti Parshad and informed him that the Tahsildar at Sirhind had, while disposing of evacuee property, situate in villag eHussain Pura, made a lot of money by accepting more amounts from bidders and issuing receipts for lesser amounts to them. He gave his own example and stated that he had paid Rs.250/- for one of such properties and the receipts issued to him was for Rs. 50/- only. On 31-5-1961, Baboo Ram dictated this news to Shakti Parshad and then put his signatures on the manuscript. On enquiry from the former whether that news was correct, the latter was informed that was so. Shakti Parshad then sent this news item to Sodhi Gurbachan Singh for publication in his paper. This news was then published in the issue of 24th of June 1961. Translated in English, it read as under:

'Evacuee property at Hussainpura (Tehsil Sirhind)-

Fictitious bids-

Through the special representative of the Sach we have received from a resident of Hussainpura a written complaint, in which he ahas written: 'The Tehsildar, Sirhind, received rupees 250 in cash from me and closed the bid for a Muslim house in my name. But I have received the treasury receipt of rupees fifty only. Treasury receipts showing nominal amounts have been issued in respect of all the houses comprising Muslim property which have been auctioned. The remaining part of the money for which the plots were sold has been misappropriated by the Tehsildar. I came to know of this thing on 24-5-1961 when other people got the receipts. He has misappropriated about four thousand rupees. Get the report printed immediately in the newspaper and have an enquiry conducted'. (Editorial staff of the Sach).'

This news had been published on the basis of the letter written by Baboo Ram to Shakti Parshad. After its publication, the public prosecutor, Ludhiana, filed a complaint against Sodhi Gurbachan Singh under section 500/501, Indian Penal Code, in the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Ludhiana. On 31st of May, 1962, the learned Judge convict Sodhi Gurbachan Singh under section 500, Indian Penal Code, and sentenced him to undergo six months simple imprisonment. On appeal, this court reduced the sentence of imprisonment of six month to one till the rising of the court, but in addition Sodhi Gurbaachan Singh was fined rs.500/-. This was on 28-2-1963. Later on, after serving a notice on Baboo Ram, Sodhi Gurbachan Singh, in February 1964, filed a suit against him for the recovery of rs.500/-. Shakti Parshad was also imploded as defendant No.2, but no relief was claimed against him.. The allegations in the plaint were that Baboo ram had given wrong news to Shakti Parshad, though he asserted it to be correct. The same was then published in the newspaper with the result that Sodhi Gurbachan Singh had to suffer imprisonment and fine. The result of all this was that Sodhi Gurbachan Singh had to undergo mental anguish apart from the fact that he was put to financial loss as well. On that basis, he claimed damages in the sum of Rs.500/- from Baboo Ram.

2. The suit was contested by Baboo Ram, who pleaded that he had not given any letter to Shakti Parshad for publication in the newspaper. His case was that Shakti Parshad wrote a lease deed in his presence saying that he was giving his agaricultural laand to one Hazura Singh, Harijan, on lease and on that paper his signatures had been obtained by Shakti Parshad.

3. On the pleadings of the parties, the following two issues were framed:

1. Whether the contents of letter dated 31-5-1961 were not dictated by Baboo Ram and he signed it considering it to be a lease deed, and if so what is its effect?

2. Whether the plaintiff is entitled to Rs.500/- as damages?

On Issue No.1, the trial Judge came to the conclusion that the contents of the letter dated 31-5-1961 were dictated by Baboo ram, who had not signed the same considering it to be a lease deed. On the other hand, he dictated the news to Shakti Parshad for publication in the newspaper. Under issue NO.2, the finding was that the act of Baboo Ram in supplying wrong news was wrongful and due to that wrongful act, the plaintiff had to pay Rs.500/- as fine. Such a wrongful act, according to the learned Judge, gave rise to a legal remedy in the shape of a suit for damages. The plaintiff was, therefore, entitled to claim Rs.500/- from Baboo Ram. On these findings the suit was decreed for Rupees 500/- with costs against Baboo Ram.

4. On appeal, the learned Additional District Judge, Patiala, confirmed the finding of the trial Judge on issue No.1 but reversed his decision on the second issue. He held that the stand taken by Baboo ram that the news item was not publish at his instance was wrong. It was also found that Baboo Ram was only responsible for conveying the objectionable matter to the plaintiff. But the latter, as an editor of the paper, could refuse to publish it, if he did not like to do so. According to the learned Judge, there was no evidence on the record to Baboo Ram was in any way false or the outcome of any malice. Unless there was material to warrant a finding that the information given by Baboo Ram was untrue and in doing so he was actuated by malice and his idea was to put the plaintiff to trouble. Baboo ram, according to the learned Judge, could not be made liable for any loss or damage which the plaintiff might have suffered in publishing the impugned information.

It was also found by the learned Judge that the plaintiff was punished for a criminal act done by him and it would be against public policy to allow him to shift his liability to somebody else. There was no contract between the plaintiff and Baboo Ram that if the former suffered in any was way as a result of the publication of the news item, then the latter would be liable to reimburse him for the same. Such a liability, according to the learned Judge, could also not be fixed on the basis of tort, as Baboo ram did not commit any wrongful act towards the plaintiff. Every citizen had a right o send his grievances, which he might have against a person in authority, to a newspaper for publication and if he did that, he could not be said to have committed any wrong. Baboo ram Could not be made to suffer either on the basis of contract or tort. As a result of these findings, the appeal was accepted, the judgment and decree of the trial court were set aside and the suit of the plaintiff was dismissed.

5. Against this decision, the present revision petition has been filed by Sodhi Gurbachan Singh.

6. It has been found as a fact by both the courts below that the contents of the letter dated 31-5-1961 were dictated by Baboo ram and thereafter he had signed that document, but not thinking it to be a lease deed, as alleged by him. The contents of that letter show that the Tehsildar Sirhind had received Rs.250/- from his for the property which he had purchased in auction, while the receipt issued to him was only for Rs. 50/- and the remaining amount had been misappropriated by the said officer. At the time of giving evidence in the civil court as D.W.1, Baboo Ram had stated that he had not dictated to Shakti Parshad that he had paid Rs.250/- to the Tehsildar who had then given a receipt for Rs.50/- only. Now the question is whether the news contained in the letter dated 31-5-1961 was, as a matter of fact, false or not. The trial Judge has, without examining this precise matter, remarked that the said news was wrong and it was on the basis of that finding responsible for paying damages to the petitioner. The learned Additional District Judge, on the other hand, has come to the conclusion that there was no material on the record to warrant a finding that the information conveyed by Baboo Ram was false and that in doing so, he was actuated by malice, his idea being to put the petitioner to trouble.

One thing is clear that there was n separate issue framed by the trial court on this particular point, namely, whether the news contained in the latter dated 31-5-1961 was, as a matter of fact, correct or not. In the absence of that issue, it cannot be said that the parties had gone to trial on that matter. It could perhaps be argued that the fact that Baboo Ram in his evidence, had said that he had not told Shakti Parshad that he had paid Rs.250/- to the Tehsildar who had given a receipt only for rupees 50/- showed that the information conveyed in the letter was not correct and no other evidence was needed on the point. It could also be contended n behalf of Baboo Ram that he had made that statement merely to protect himself from litigation which might be started against him by the Tehsildar claiming damages for making that defamatory accusation, though in reality the news contained in the letter was true. But as I have already said, there was no issue on this point and the parties had not been afforded opportunity to lead evidence in connection therewith. But assuming for the sake of argument that the news was incorrect and the same had been supplied to Shakti Parshad who, in turn, had passed it on to the petitioner for being published in his newspaper, could Baboo ram, in law, be held liable for damages in a suit filed by the petitioner against him? Was there any privity of contract between Baboo Ram and the petitioner.

It is undisputed that Baboo ram had only conveyed this information to Shakti Parshad and not to the petitioner. There was no contract between the petitioner and Baboo Ram to the effect that if the former suffered on account of the publication of the wrong information supplied by the latter, then the latter would have to pay damages to the former. The was, thus, no contractual liability of Baboo ram in this case so far as the petitioner was concerned. Could it be said that he was liable to the petitioner on the basis of tort? In other words, did he commit any civil injury as regards the petitioner, which might make him liable for action for damages in tort? It has been said in Ratan Lal's Law of Torts, 19th edition, that to constitute a tort or civil ijury-(a) there must be wrongful act committed by a person; (b) the wrongful act must result in legal damages to another, and (c) the wrongful act must be of such a nature as to give rise to a legal remedy in nature as to give rise to a legal remedy in the form of an action for damages. While defining wrongful act, it was stated that the act complained of should, under the circumstances be legally wrongful as regards the party complaining; that is, it must prejudicially affect him in some legal right. It is not enough if it will, however, directly, do him harm in his interest. Could it be said in the instant case, that the petitioner, who was the Editor of a paper, had a legal right that a person should give only correct news to the correspondent of his paper? Counsel could not point out that the petitioner had any such right. He was also unable to say as to which legal right of the petitioner had been infringed by Baboo Ram. He also could not show what duty Baboo Ram had towards the petitioner which he had failed to perform. That being so, it cannot be held that either some legal right of the petitioner had been violated by Baboo ram, or there was any legal duty of the latter towards the former which had been infringed by him.

Under these circumstances, even the first requisite of tort has not been established in the present case. It is, therefore, unnecessary to determine whether the petitioner had been able to prove the remaining two.

It is, therefore, clear that Baboo Ram cannot be held liable for damages in tort as well. IT is possible that Baboo ram might perhaps be responsible for his action to the Tehsidar if it is proved that the news supplied by him was not factually correct, but learned counsel was unable to point out any rule of law under which the petitioner could claim damages from Baboo ram. It is undisputed that it is the duty of an Editor of a newspaper to check up the news or the information that is supplied to him, before publishing the same in his newspaper, especially when the news might be of a defamatory nature, because ultimately it is the Editor who would be held responsible for publishing any defamatory material in his paper. If he does not do that, he has to suffer the consequences for his neglect and remissness. Learned counsel for the petitioner could not cite any principle of law or a decide case in favour of the proposition that if a person gives wrong information to the representative of a newspaper and the same is published with the result that the Editor f that paper is subsequently held for defamation, then the supplier of the information would be liable for damages in a suit filed against him by the Editor.

7. In view of what I have said above, I would dismiss this revision petition, leaving the parties, however, to bear their own costs in this Court as well.

8. Revision dismissed.


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