Horace Owen Compton Beasley, Kt., C.J.
1. The respondent here is the Editor and Publisher of the 'Tamil Nadu' newspaper whose place of business is in Broadway, Madras; and he is here to-day to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt of Court or otherwise dealt with.
2. The facts of the case can be stated quite briefly and they are as follows: One Sathappa Chettiar at whose instance these proceedings have been put before the Court is an accused person. He stands charged in the Court of the Sub-divisional Magistrate of Coimbatore with the offence of criminal breach of trust- He is the Secretary and Banker of the Kaleswarar Mills, Ltd. and amongst other things he has two mills, vis., the Sree Krishna Ginning Factory and the Soma Vilas Ginning Factory under his management. A complaint was presented against him charging him with criminal breach of trust on the 1st September in the Court before mentioned. There were three heads of charge--so we gather from the opening of Mr. Nugent Grant--and they were that a certain sum which had been set apart for the payment of bonuses was received wrongly by Sathappa Chettiar, that out of a sum of money which lay in suspense account he set apart Rs. 75,000 in order to misappropriate that sum at some future dale and that he was guilty of receiving secret commissions from vendors of cotton. Immediately after this complaint had been presented in the Sub-divisional Magistrate's Court of Coimbatore a search warrant was moved for and obtained and certain mills were searched by the Police. Two of them were the Sree Krishna Ginning Factory and the Soma Vilas Ginning Factory which, as before stated, were under his management. On the 4th September in the issue of that date of the respondent's newspaper there appeared a report of the criminal charges against Sathappa Chettiar in the Sub-divisional Magistrate's Court of Coimbatore. We understand that the report contained an accurate statement of the complaint which was set out in extenso. Had the matter ended there, no proceedings for contempt of Court could have been taken against the respondent, and Mr. Nugent Grant does not here rely upon what appeared with regard to that complaint in the respondent's newspaper. He however complains of something which was done by the newspaper on the same date. In the poster or 'Contents Bill' relating to this issue and in the head lines the matter was dealt with in Tamil in four lines, the official translation of which is as follows: 'Sathappa Chettiar in trouble; Police search at Tiruppur; Thousands of rupees missing; Cotton Mills in danger.' Mr. Rajagopalan who appears for the respondent argues that the correct rendering of that passage is as follows: 'Sathappa Chettiar put to trouble; Police search at Tiruppur; Thousands of rupees missing; Cotton Mills plight' and argues that read in that way the conduct of the respondent does not amount to contempt of Court in so far as what he has done is not likely in any way to prejudice the fair trial of Sathappa Chettiar. With regard to the first line, in our view, there is not much difference between the official translation and the interpretation put upon it by the respondent. It called the attention of the public who were invited to read the newspaper to the fact that some trouble or worry had fallen upon Sathappa Chettiar. That by itself of course would not amount to anything but it is linked up with the next line which, in our opinion, clearly shows what those words were intended in the first line to convey to the public. As a result of this criminal complaint Sathappa Chettiar was certainly in trouble and of course those people who read the 'Contents Bill' but had not then read the newspaper would find some indication of the sort of trouble that had been put upon him by the words 'Police search at Tiruppur.' Tiruppur was the place where these two factories which were under the management of Sathappa Chettiar were and there was a search and as a result of the search--that is the conclusion to be drawn from the third line--thousands of rupees were found to be missing. As a result of that you gel the fourth line that cotton mills were either in danger or in trouble or in a plight, it does not matter which construction is put upon the Tamil words. Taking these four lines together, we are of the opinion that readers of the poster and the head lines would gather that Sathappa Chettiar was in trouble, that the Police were connected with the trouble, that the trouble he was in occasioned a search of the mills under his management at Tiruppur and that as a result of that search thousands of rupees were found to be missing which was a disastrous matter for the cotton mills. It is argued here that in the third line which after all is the most important one, one Tamil letter 'ma' meaning 'alleged' was accidentally omitted by the compositor and that the line should read 'Thousands of rupees alleged to be missing.' Had the words 'alleged' been there, then this matter probably would never have come up before this Court. It is an important omission and we are not going to assume that it was an accidental omission. Even if it were an accidental omission, we have got to ask ourselves whether that omission, accidental or otherwise, does not convey to the public that as a fact thousands of rupees were missing as a result of the Police search at Tiruppur and that Sathappa Chettiar was in trouble with regard to it and in consequence of it. That being so, we have got to consider whether the conduct of the respondent in publishing those lines so worded constitutes a contempt of Court, and we can do no better than to refer to the observations of Lord Alverstone, C.J., in the case of The King v. Tibbits (1902) 1 K.B. 77, where he says as follows:
It would, indeed, be far-fetched to infer that the articles would in fact have any effect upon the mind of either Magistrate or Judge,'--we may pause here and say that it is not in the least likely that the words complained of would have any effect on the Sub-divisional Magistrate of Coimbatore and indeed it is extremely doubtful whether he would ever have seen these words at all--'but the essence of the offence is conduct calculated to produce, so to speak, an atmosphere of prejudice in the midst of which the proceedings must go on. Publications of that character have been punished over and over again as contempts of Court, where the legal proceedings pending did not involve trial by Jury and where no one would imagine that the mind of the Magistrates or Judges charged with the case would or could be induced thereby to swerve from the straight course.
3. It seems to us that these words are singularly appropriate to this case and it is impossible to say that the conduct complained of is not calculated to produce, so to speak, an atmosphere of prejudice in the midst of which the proceedings must go on. That being so, the respondent is guilty of contempt of Court and the only other matter to be considered is, how is he to be dealt with by us. Whilst we think that it is a serious thing to have omitted the word 'alleged' thereby stating it as a fact, when it possibly is not, that thousands of rupees were missing in the factories, it is a case which does not amount to serious contempt of Court. We think that under the circumstances justice will be done by ordering the respondent to pay the petitioner's costs which we fix at Rs. 250.