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Nemichand Vs. Khemraj - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 430 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1973Raj240; 1972()WLN1041
AppellantNemichand
RespondentKhemraj
Advocates: M.L. Calla, Adv.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredEglantine Inn Ltd. v. Smith
Excerpt:
.....vilified.;mere printing of a defamatory statement is not actionable. there must be publication of such objectionable literature and unless publication is proved, the plaintiff cannot sue the printer for damages.;in the present case, all that we have on the record against defendant no. 3 is that he printed the impugned leaflet at the instance of defendant no. 3 bagji and handed over the printed matter to him. this act of the defendant-appellant, by itself, case not come within the mischief of the term 'defamation' as explained above. - - 6. it is well established that 'defamation' is publication of defamatory matter and publication of defamatory matter is the communication thereof by one person to others, neither of. the essence of the wrong is the diminution of the good opinion..........ramdas and laxminarain in the national printers press owned by defendant no. 5 nemichand and the printed leaflets were subsequently distributed at various places with the result that the plaintiff was suspended from service and his reputation was greatly impaired.4. the defendant no. 5 nemichand in a separate written statement filed by him admitted the printing of leaflet ex. 1 by him but contended that even though it was printed by him at the instance of defendant bagji he was not in any way responsible for its publication.5. thp learned district judge has come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no evidence on record to show that the appellant (defendant no. 5) nemichand had published the leaflet in question. he also held that the appellant nemichand would not bp liable for.....
Judgment:

C.M. Lodha, J.

1. This is a defendant's second appeal arising out of a suit for damages for publishing a defamatory leaflet. Since none of the respondents has appeared in spite of service. I have heard the appeal ex parte.

2. The suit was for Rs. 2,100/- and out of the five defendants impleaded in the suit a decree for Rs. 500/- was passed only against defendant No. 5 Nemichand who is alleged to have printed the leaflet in question. Both the plaintiff and the defendant No. 5 filed appeals in the Court of the District Judge, Jodhpur who dismissed the plaintiff's appeal as having abated but upheld the decree for Rs. 500/-against defendant No. 5 who has come in Second appeal to this Court.

3. The plaintiff's case is that on 11th June, 1961 the defendants, Nos. 1 to 4, namely. Ramdas, Laxminarain Bagji, who is now dead and is represented by his son Gutii respondent No. 4, and So-hanrai convened a meeting at Kabootron ka chok Jodhpur which was presided over by defendant No. 3 Bagii and speeches were delivered by defendants 1, 2 and 4 in which wild imputations were made against the plaintiff for molesting women, extracting money by unlawful means and remaining absent from duty from the railway workshop. It was further alleged that the gist of these speeches was got printed by defendants 1 and 2, namely Ramdas and Laxminarain in the National Printers Press owned by defendant No. 5 Nemichand and the Printed leaflets were subsequently distributed at various places with the result that the plaintiff was suspended from service and his reputation was greatly impaired.

4. The defendant No. 5 Nemichand In a separate written statement filed by him admitted the printing of leaflet Ex. 1 by him but contended that even though it was printed by him at the instance of defendant Bagji he was not in any way responsible for its Publication.

5. Thp learned District Judge has come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no evidence on record to show that the appellant (defendant No. 5) Nemichand had published the leaflet in question. He also held that the appellant Nemichand would not bp liable for payment of any damages unless it is established that he had published the defamatory matter.

6. It is well established that 'defamation' is publication of defamatory matter and publication of defamatory matter is the communication thereof by one Person to Others, neither of. such persons being the person of whom the matter is defamatory. Such communication is effected by any act. which convevs the defamatory meaning of the matter to the person to whom it is communicated- Tt is not the matter but its publication which causes the injury. It has been held time and again that unpublished defamatory matter is as little amenable to civil process as published undefamatpry matter. The essence of the wrong is the diminution of the good opinion of others and not the outrage or insult to the dignitv or feelings of the person vilified. Lord Halsbury says at page 6 of the Halsburv's Laws of England, 3rd Edition, Volume 24 :--

'A defamatory statement is a statement which, if published of and concerning a person is calculated to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking men or causes him to be shunned or avoided or to expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule or to convey an imputation on him. disparaging or injurious to him in his office, profession, calling, trade or business. It follows, therefore, that every thing printed or written, which reflects on the character of another and published without lawful justification or excuse, is a libel. Thus publication is an essential ingredient in the case of a libel.'

7. The learned District Judge has, therefore rightly come to the conclusion that mere printing of a defamatory statement is not actionable. There must be publication of such obiectionable literature and unless publication is Proved. the plaintiff cannot sue the printer for damages. In spite of having come to this correct conclusion on the question of law, the learned District Judge, however, held that since the appellant did not adduce any evidence, so much so that he even refrained from coming himself in the witness box it may be Presumed that he had also a hand in its publication. In arriving at this finding the learned Judge placed reliance on Eglantine Inn Ltd. v. Smith 1948 N. I. 29 and held that the nresent case was almost identical to the facts of the ruling referred to above and ouoted at page 308 of the Law of Torts, Fourth Edition by Harry Street.

8. The text of the case has not been made available to me but I find the following observations at page 308 of the book :--

'A decision at first instance in Northern Ireland has held that a printer does not by the very act of handing back in a parcel the printed handbills to the customer-author, publish the handbills. I'O Eglantine Inn Ltd. v. Smith, (1948) N I. 29. (the printer was nevertheless held jointly liable for the subsequent distribution of the handbills by the author's agents).'

9. Now in the present case, it is important to note that the trial Court has ccmp to the conclusion that the distribution of leaflet in question by defendants Nos. 1 and 2 was not proved. Thus, the authority relied upon by the learned District Judge can easily be distinguished on the ground that in that authority the subsequent distribution of handbills by the author's agents was Droved; whereas in the present case there is no such Proof.

10. In this connection reference may also be usefully made to. the following observations in the same book by Harry Street fat pase 309) :--

'Difficulties of proving publication are eased by certain rebuttable presumptions. Proof of Proper addressing and posting of a letter gives rise to a presumption of publication to the addressee, and a Post card and a telegram (but not an unsealed letter) are presumed to have been published to post office officials. On the other hand, where the defendant handed to X a folded unsealed letter which he, without reading or showing to others, handed to the plaintiff there was held to be no publication.'

11. In the present case, all that we have on the record affainst defendant No. 5 is that he printed the impugned leaflet at the instance of defendant No. 3 Bagii and handed over the printed matter to him. This act of the defendant-appellant, by itself: does not come within the mischief of the term 'defamation' as explained above.

12. The result is that I allow this appeal, set aside the iudgments and decrees of the courts below and dismiss the plaintiff's suit in toto. There will be no order as to costs.


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