Charles Arnold White, Kt. C.J.
1. The question referred to us is whether a defamatory statement made by a person opposing the registration of a will in his petition to the Registrar objecting to the registration is absolutely privileged so as to exempt the party making it from liability to be punished for an offence, under Section 499 Indian Penal Code.
2. In Criminal Revision Case No. 216 of 1911 we expressed the opinion that a statement made by a prisoner in his defence was absolutely privileged and we based this opinion upon the ground that the English rule of common law, that anything said in the course of a judicial proceeding before a Court of competent jurisdiction by counsel, witness or party was absolutely privileged, applied in India. The question put to us is limited to a statement made by a person opposing the registration of a will. Our answer to this question must, in the first instance, depend on the view we take on the general - question as to whether a registration officer is a Court so as to render proceedings before him'absolutely privileged.
3. What we should look to, in considering this question, as it seems to me, is the general scheme and purpose of the Registration Act and not the special proceedings under particular sections.
4. The duties of the registration officers are, in the main, administrative, though, no doubt, for the purpose of discharging these administrative duties powers of a judicial character have been conferred upon them. The head of the establishment is an officer called the Inspector-General of Registration and he controls the department as an administrative officer.
5. There is no appeal from the decision of a Registration Officer to a^ivil Court. If a party deems himself aggrieved by the refusal of the officer to register a document, he must institute a suit (Section 77): An order of a registration officer decides no question of right as between parties, beyond the question of the right of the party who presents the document to have the document registered. The powers conferred by Section 39 (compelling the attendance of witness), Section 63 (discretion to administer an oath), Section 75, (4)(compelling attendance of witnesses and making orders as to costs) are no doubt powers which are exercised by courts of justice; but the fact that a registration officer has these powers does not, in my opinion, make him a court of justice for the purposes of the question we have to consider what powers are necessary in order to enable him to discharge his administrative functions.
6. Section 87 protects a registration officer in the same way as Section 77 of the Penal Code protects a judge; but this does not, in my opinion, make him a judge. The inference which I should be disposed to draw from the prevision in Section 84 (3) of the Registration Act, that in Section 228 of the Indian Penal Code the words 'judicial proceeding 'should include proceedings under the Registration Act, would be that, for other purposes, proceedings before a registration officer were not 'judicial proceedings.' Similarly, as it seems to me, the inference to be drawn from Section 484 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is that a registration office is not for ordinary purposes 'a civil Court.'
7. I do not think the definitions of 'Court 'in the Evidence Act and 'Court of Justice 'in the Penal Code afford us rauch assistance. These definitions were framed for the purposes of the Acts in which they are to be found.
8. In Atchayya v. Gangayya I.L.R. (1892) M. 138 a Full Bench of this Court held that a Registrar acting under Sections 72--75 of the Registration Act was a Court for the purposes of Section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code. A contrary view had been taken in Queen-Empress v. Tulja and Ors. I.L.R. (1887) B. 36. In Queen-Empress v. Ram Lal I.L.R. (1893) A. 141 Knox J. declined to follow the Madras Full Bench Decision.
9. In Marudayya Pillai v. Perwnal Pillai this Court held that a District Registrar exercising his ordinary functions of registering a document, the execution of which is not denied is not a Court within the meaning of Section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code. In Queen-Empress v. Ramaya Nadan (1893) 4 M.L.J. 189 this Court held that a Sub-Registrar acting under Sections 34 and 35 of the Indian Registration Act III of 1877 is not a Court within the meaning of Section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
10. Since this case was argued before us Mr. V. Venkatachariar has called our attention to a case-Manavalz Goundan v. Kumarappa Reddi (1907) 17 M.L.J. 313 where Subramania Aiyar, J. held that a District Registrar is not a Court within the meaning of Section 622 of the Code of Civil Procedure (1882) and that an order as to costs made by a District Registrar was not subject to revision.
11. So far as Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is concerned the matter has now been set at rest by the Legislature. See Section 195 (2).
12. It is not necessary to consider for what (if any) purpose, in the absence of express enactment, a registration officer is, or is to be deemed to be, a Court. The only question before us is, is he a Court for the purpose of rendering a statement made in an 'objection petition 'put in in the proceedings referred to in the order of reference, a statement made on a privileged occasion. For the reasons I have stated and for the reasons given by West, J. in dealing with the question of sanction for prosecution for perjury in Queen-Empress v. Tulja I.L.R. (1887) B. 26 in my opinion, he is not.
13. I would answer the question which has been referred to us in the negative.
Sanharan Nair, J
14. I agree.
15. I agree.