T.K. Joseph, J.
1. The petitioner who was the 8th accused in C. C. No. 79 of 1956 on the file of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate's Court, Trivandrum. was convicted under Section 501, Indian Penal Code, and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 51/-. The conviction and sentence were confirmed in appeal and he has come in revision. The respondent was not present at the hearing.
2. The petitioner and seven others were prosecuted on the complaints of the respondent that a defamatory statement was made and published by the accused. The respondent is the President of the Trivandrum City Corporation Workers' Union. The pamphlet (Ex. P-1) wherein the defamatory statement was made purported to be one issued by thirty scavengers of the City Corporation and it was printed in a press owned by the 8th accused. Seven out of the thirty persons whose names appear at the end of the pamphlet wore accused 1 to 7. They were acquitted on the ground that they were illiterate people and that the necessary mens rea was not proved. It was also found that the original of Ext. P-1 did not contain their signatures. Finding that the pamphlet in question contained defamatory passage attributing dishonesty to the respondent, the learned Magistrate convicted the 8th accused under Section 501: and this conviction was confirmed in appeal.
3. The main point urged on behalf of the petitioner was that under Section 501, Indian Penal Code, the prosecution was bound to prove, not merely that the accused printed the pamphlet and that it contained defamatory matter but also that he did so knowing or having good reason to believe that it was defamatory, and that such evidence was absent in this case. One of the points raised by the 8th accused was that he did not know Malayalam, the language in which the pamphlet was printed. Shri A. Madhavan, learned Public Prosecutor, who kindly agreed to render assistance to the court, stated that evidence of such knowledge was lacking in this case.
No doubt, if the printed matter is plainly defamatory it is a good reason for the printer to know that it is defamatory but, so far as this case is concerned, it is difficult to hold that the petitioner who was unable to read Malayalam, understood the nature of the matter printed. The conviction must he quashed on this ground, and I do not therefore consider it necessary to express any opinion on the question whether the pamphlet contains a defamatory statement.
4. In view of the conclusion reached above, I allow the revision petition, set aside the convictionand sentence and acquit the petitioner. The fine ifrealised will be refunded to the petitioner.