L.S. Mehta, J.
1. This is an application filed under Section 561-A, Criminal Procedure Code, by K. Narendra, Managing Proprietor, Printer, Publisher and Editor of Hindi Daily 'Veer Arjun', New Delhi and Nanak Ram Israni, Correspondent of the above paper, Ajmer, against the order dated November 4, 1971, of learned Additional MunsinVMagis-trate, Ajmer City (East).
2. The brief facts of this case are that Amrit Kumar Advocate had been engaged in Criminal Case No. 238 of 1966 (State V. Ajit Singh under Sections 323 and 335, Indian Penal Code), pending in the court of Additional Munsiff-Magistrate, Ajmer, on behalf of Ajit Singh. When Ajit Singh had come to know on 25-8-1970, that that case had been decided against him and he had been convicted and sentenced, he had shouted to attract the attention of the court as to how he had been convicted when he had already given to his Advocate Amrit Kumar bribe money to be paid to the Munsiff-Magistrate. At that time Amrit Kumar was also present before the Court He stood up and remonstrated to Ajit Singh about hi foolish behaviour. Ajit Singh had not paid heed to his counsel's protest. Amrit Kumar, with a view to pacify him, had taken him aside and it is alleged that the amount of Rs. 800/-, received by him from Ajit Singh had been returned to him. Thereafter Amrit Kumar had told several persons that the money in fact had not been received by him, but it had been accepted by his junior Sham-sher Singh. When Shamsher Singh had come to know of this, he had made an application to the President of the Bar Association, Ajmer, imploring him to move the Bar Council concerned for taking appropriate action against his senior Amrit Kumar. What had been the fate of that application is not known. After some time Shamsher Singh had made a complaint on September 2, 1970, in the court of the Additional Munsiff-Magistrate, Ajmer City (East), against Amrit Kumar under Sections 500 and 504, Indian Penal Code. Learned Additional Munsiff-Magistrate ordered its registration.
After the filing of the complaint Shamsher Singh had been examined by the Court on September 7, 1970. Accused No. 2 Nanak Ram somehow came to know of the contents of the complaint and the substance of Shamsher Singh's allegations. He communicated the relevant facts to the Printer, Publisher and Editor of 'Veer Arjun', New Delhi. These facts were published in the issue of 'Veer Arjun', dated September 29, 1970. By this publication Armit Kumar felt offended. He, therefore, made a complaint against K. Narendra and Nanak Ram Israni under Sections 500, and 501/109, Indian Penal Code in the court of the Additional Munsiff-Magistrate, Ajmer City (East). Learned Munsiff-Magistrate, after necessary proceedings, ordered the registration of the case and further directed that processes should be issued against both the parties, K. Narendra and Nanak Ram Israni. Later on both the accused moved an application in the Trial Court to discharge them under Section 253 (2), Criminal Procedure Code. The Trial Court, by its order dated November 4, 1971, dismissed the application, saying that the publication of a news item in the manner in which it had been done was not warranted by law and, therefore, the accused could not prima facie claim protection under exception No. IV. of Section 499, Indian Penal Code and that the reports so published did not form part of the court's proceedings.
3. Feeling aggrieved by the above order, the present application has been taken by the two accused before this Court under Section 561-A, Criminal Procedure Code. learned Counsel for the petitioners submits that the Trial Court went wrong in observing that the news item was independent of what had been complained to the court The Trial Court, counsel adds, fell in error in further holding that the publication did not form part of the court's proceedings. learned Counsel for the side opposite supported the order of the Additional Munsifi-Magitrate, Ajmer City (East). His argument is that unless the complainant was given an opportunity of adducing his evidence, it cannot be held at this stage that the accused are entitled to claim absolute privilege under fourth exception to Section 499, Indian, Penal Code. He has cited in support of his contentions Supreme Court decision, reported as Balraj Khanna v. Moti Ram : 1971CriLJ1110 .
4. I have heard both the learned Counsel at length. I have also been taken through the complaint made by Shamsher Singh and the statement given by him vis a vis the contents of the news item, published in 'Veer Arjun' of September 29, 1970. The news as published in 'Veer Arjun' is in accordance with the allegations made by Shamsher Singh. Fourth exception to Section 499, Indian Penal Code, is in terms following:-
It is not defamation to publish a substantially true report of the proceedings of a Court of Justice, or of the result of any such proceedings.
The words 'substantially, true report' are significant. They give an indication that it is not necessary that the true report has to be published in verbatim or word for word. If the contents of the report are substantially true, they are covered by the fourth exception. Of course if the publisher gives his comments, perhaps they are not covered by the fourth exception. But where, as here, the report contains only fair account of what takes place in a Court of Justice, the person who publishes it has only to prove that fact under the general issue and he is entitled to claim complete immunity. As observed by Lord Campbell C. J. in Andrews v. Chapman, (1853) 175 ER 558, it is not essential that every word of the evidence, of the speeches, and of what was said by the Judge, should be inserted, if the report is substantially a fair and correct report of what took place in a Court of Justice. A fair account of what takes place in a Court of Justice may be published. The matter in issue also received the consideration of the Calcutta High Court in Annada Prosad V. Manotosam Roy : AIR1953Cal503 and it held:
All that is required in law is that it should be substantially a true report. It need not be true absolutely, true word fof word, and minor errors are immaterial. Good faith also is not a necessary ingredient in the exception.
In the present case it has not been shown to me that the impugned report, published in 'Veer Arjun' was not substantially correct. A careful comparison of the report published in 'Veer Arjun' and the complaint and the statement made by Shamsher Singh demonstrates that both are similar and alike and express resemblance.
5. I now switch over to the contention of learned Counsel for the side opposite as to whether the accused, under the circumstances of the case, could claim benefit of the fourth exception to Section 499, Indian Penal Code. The two accused admit that the report was published by their paper 'Veer Arjun' of September 29, 1970. Learned Additional Munsiff-Magistrate has observed in his order that the contents of the complaint would not form part of the proceedings of the Court. They are, according to him, not the report of the court proceedings. Had the accused published the court proceedings, they could have claimed immunity from the prosecution with the aid of fourth exception to Section 499, Indian Penal Code. I do not agree with this proposition. In my opinion, the complaint filed by Shamsher Singh in the court of the Additional Munsiff-Magistrate did form part of the court proceedings. It has been laid down in Halsbury's Laws of England, Third Edition, Vol. 24 P. 49:
The privilege extends not only to words spoken but also to documents properly used and regularly prepared for use in the proceedings.
In Wason v. Walter, (1868) 4 QB 73, it has been observed:
A faithful report in a public newspape of a debate in either house of Parliament, containing matter disparaging to the character of an individual which had been spoken in the course of the debate, is not actionable at the suit of the person whose character has been called in question. But the publication is privileged on the same principle as an accurate report of proceedings in a court of justice is privileged, viz., that the advantage of publicity to the community at large outweighs any private injury resulting from the publication.
In Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden Society, Limited v, Parkinson, (1892) 1 QB 431 it has been laid down:
No action of libel or slender lies, whether against Judges, counsel, witnesses, or parties, for words written or spoken in the course of any proceeding before any Court recognised by law, and this though the words written or spoken were written or spoken maliciously, without any justification or excuse, and from personal ill-will and anger against the person defamed. This 'absolute privilege' has been conceded on the grounds of public policy to insure freedom of speech where it is essential that freedom of speech should exist....
In Barrat v. Reams, (1905) 1 KB 504 it has been observed:
A commission, issued by the bishop of a diocese under the Pluralities Act, 1838, and the Pluralities Acts Amendment Act, 1885, to inquire into the inadequate performance of the ecclesiastical duties of any benefice, creates a judicial tribunal, and the occasion on which a witness gives evidence before the commissioners is absolutely privileged, and no action is maintainable in respect of evidence so given.
In Ratan Lai's Law of Tort, 19th Edn. P. 188, it is mentioned:
All documents necessary to the conduct of a case, e.g., pleadings, affidavits and instructions to counsel are also absolutely privileged.
6. In Duraiswami v. Lakshmanam AIR 1933 Mad 537, Venkatasubba Rao, J., held that the doctrine of absolute privilege is not confined to statements made before judicial tribunals strictly so called but applies to statements made before a 'tribunal' (which word covers a commission or inquiry) recognised by law, which though not a Court in the ordinary sense of the word, exercises judicial functions, that is to say, acts in a manner similar to that in which a Court of justice acts in respect of an inquiry before it. Hence as the proceedings before an officer under Section 75 Madras Estates Land Act, arc quasi judicial proceedings, the statements made before such officer are privileged.
7. From the above authorities it is manifestly clear that absolute privilege, which the accused are entitled to claim under fourth exception to Section 499, I. P. C, is not confined only to judgments and orders of Courts, but it stretches to complaints or pleadings made by parties concerned. If the complaint contained anything which was not relevant or should not have been contained therein, it would not for that reason have caused the proceedings to lose their judicial character or their protection by absolute privilege.
8. learned Counsel representing Amrit Kumar has submitted that unless his client was offered an opportunity to adduce evidence in support of the complaint made by him, it would be preposterous to discharge the accused. He has cited : 1971CriLJ1110 (supra). This Supreme Court decision dealt with a resolution passed by the Standing Committee of the Corporation of Delhi. Wild allegations were made in that resolution against complainant Moti Ram. One of the allegations was that he was indulging in acts of moral turpitude and in seducing girls and women. It was not known as to which of the members of the Standing Committee made such an allegation. It is in this context that their Lordships of the Supreme Court observed that further inquiry was necessary to know as to whether a prima facie case was made out against all the accused on the basis of the complaint. I do not think this ruling would be of any assistance to the non-petitioner. The report, published in 'Veer Arjun', was prima facie defamatory in character. The two accused K. Narendra and Nanak Ram Israni admit that the report was published in their paper. Nevertheless they claimed unqualified privilege for the publication of the court-proceedings, under fourth exception to Section 499, IPC which privilege they are entitled to claim in the light of the above discussion. The accused while publishing the news report did not travel beyond the contents of the complaint and the statement made by Shamsher Singh in the Court of law. In that context there was hardly any necessity for recording further evidence in the matter. Sub-section (2) of Section 253, Criminal P. C, gives ample jurisdiction to the Court to discharge an accused and the order of discharge can be passed at any stage of the proceedings of the case. Sub-section (1) will not operate as a bar to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court under Sub-section (2): See Cricket Assn. of Bengal v. State of W. B. : 1971CriLJ1432 .
9. In the result, I accept this application and quash the order of learned Additional Munsiff-Magistrate, Ajmer City (East), dated May 12, 1971 and discharge the accused under Sub-section (2) of Section 253, Criminal P. C.
10. learned Counsel for Amrit Kumar prays for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The case has been decided upon well established principles. I do not think it is a fit case for grant of such leave. The prayer is rejected.