1. This is a suit for damages. The circumstances out of which it arose are as follows: The defendant, a Dasi, was accused of rioting, by a person who is admittedly a servant of the plaintiff. When he was being examined as a witness the defendant instructed her pleader to put certain questions to him which implied that the charge was brought at the instigation of the plaintiff on account of the ill-feeling which he entertained towards her. The defendant repeated these statements in a reply to a notice sent by the plaintiff to her. The defendant claims privilege. She also pleads the truth of her statements.
2. The rule of English law that 'no action of libel or slander lies whether against judges, counsel, witnesses, or parties for words written or spoken in the ordinary course of any proceeding before any Court or tribunal recognised by law' has been applied in this Presidency to Judges in Raman Nayar v. Subrahmanya Ayyan I.L.R. (1893) M. 87; to witnesses in many cases see In the matter of Alraja Naidu I.L.R. (1900) M. 222 and to counsel in Sullivan v. Norton I.L.R. (1886) M. 28. The principle on which this rule is based would seem to apply also to an accused person, as it is essential to the administration of justice that those who are protecting their own interests should be under no apprehension of any proceedings from the opposite party. It has been held in Trotman v. Dunn (1815) 4 Cam 211 that if the words were used for the purpose of 'defence' then a person is justified in using them. In this case the judge has found that the questions were put in good faith.
3. We, are therefore, of opinion that the defendant is not liable for the imputations made in the questions put to the witness. It is further argued that the defendant is not entitled to claim privilege for the statements in her reply as they were not made in die course of any judicial proceeding. But the defendant is entitled to reply to the notice sent to her and to state her reasons; such reply, it has been held, is privileged so long as it is confined to the matter in hand and is relevant. The defendant in the present case did no more than acknowledge, having made these imputations before. The plaintiff can, therefore, only rely upon the words previously spoken and use this reply to prove that the imputations were made. It is true that, if the defendant had published this reply she could not claim any privilege, and the appellant contends that it is admitted by one of the defendant's witnesses that one Nilakauta Iyer was aware of this reply. But we cannot allow the plaintiff to rely upon this fact as any such publication by the defendant was never alleged. On this point also, we agree with the lower appellate court.
4. We, therefore, dismiss the second appeal with costs.