1. The facts out of which this appeal arises are as follows: The appellant was the defendant in an original suit filed before the learned District Munsif of Sankaridurg at Salem for recovery of a sum of Rs. 600 as damages for false and malicious prosecution. The plaint averments, with which alone we need be concerned for the disposal of the appeal, were as follows. The defendant (appellant) was the President of the Pettipuram Panchayat Court, and this Court launched a prosecution of the plaintiff (respondent) for an alleged offence committed in respect of a judicial proceeding before it under Section 174, I. P. C.
It is not in dispute that the Panchayat Court passed a resolution that the plaintiff (respondent)should be so prosecuted, for alleged deliberate failure to appear in that Court notwithstanding service of summons, and that the appellant filed that criminal complaint purely in his capacity as the President of the Court, which was the real complainant. The criminal case ended in an acquittal. The plaintiff brought forward this action, alleging that there was prior enmity between him and the defendant (appellant) and that, in fact, the summonses in the Panchayat Court proceeding were not even sought to be served upon him.
2. The learned District Munsif dismissed the suit with costs holding (upon issue 1) that Section 1 of the Judicial Officers Protection Act (Act XVIII) of 1850) was a total bar to the suit.
3. The learned District Judge, in appeal, set aside the judgment and decree of the District Mun-sif, and remanded the case for fresh trial and disposal according to law, in the light of certain observations made by him. The defendant (appellant) claims that this order of the appellate Court is quite erroneous and opposed to law, and that no such remand of the suit could have been made, in view of the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Judicial Officers Protection Act (XVIII of 1850).
4. Upon a careful consideration of this matter, I am of the view that the appeal ought to be allowed, and that the order of the learned District Judge is manifestly erroneous. The judgment and decree of the learned District Munsif are perfectly correct, and, indeed, unassailable in my view. The learned District Judge has fallen into a confusion of ideas upon the matter. The question is not whether the defendant (appellant) was instrumental in persuading the Panchayat Court to pass such a resolution and to file such a complaint, and whether his instrumentality in this respect was due to prior enmity between the parties.
The simple question is whether the filing of the complaint was not a judicial act done by the defendant in his capacity as the President of the Panchayat Court, and representing the juristic entity. I am qwite unable to see how there could be any difference of opinion upon this aspect. The analogy drawn by the learned District Judge of a person filing a compliant before the Police, and being liable to be sued in damages for false prosecution, notwithstanding the fact that the police actually prosecuted, is quite misleading and inapplicable.
Once it is conceded that the complainant in this ease was the Panchayat Court, that the offence complained of was in relation to a judicial proceeding of that Court, and that the appellant acted in his official capacity as President of that Court. Section 1 of the Judicial Officers Protection Act (XVIII of 1850) would be a complete bar to any such suit. It is noteworthy that the words 'in good faith' occurring in Section 1 relate to the juris-dictional capacity, about which there is really no dispute in the present case, and not to any question of purity of motive.
The very wide immunity granted by this Act has, in fact, come up for judicial comment. The argument that such wide and unqualified protection would sometimes cover the evil intentioned acts of corrupt judicial agencies was raised, but not considered as a good ground for any other view of the beneficent provision of this Act. Sir Lawrence Jenkins, C. J., tersely put the matter thus in Girjashankar v. Gopalji, ILR 30 Bom 241,
'The protection afforded to judicial officers rests on public policy. And though thereby a malicious Judge or Magistrate may gain a protection designed not for him, but in the public interest, it happily does not follow that he can exercise his malice with impunity. His conduct can be investigated elsewhere and due punishment awarded.'
In other words, the immunity given by the Act is absolute. But that docs not imply that higher agencies, in administrative control of that judicial officer or court, may not take cognizance of such conduct, and deal adequately with it. But the subject or citizen is not permitted to obtain redress through a Court of law, by canvassing the motive of the judicial officer who acts in his judicial capacity.
5. I find an interesting decision in Maung Myat Min v. Maung Waik, 1872 92 Low Bur Rul 83, where there are striking observations about the possible disastrous effect of an opposite view of the provisions of this Act. As stated in this ruling:
'A contrary system would produce great inconvenience by allowing every losing party, of whom there must be one in every suit, to bring an action against the Judge, and the Judge in his turn, if unsuccessful, suing the other Judge who had pronounced against him.'
Further commentary is needless.
6. I therefore allow this appeal, set aside the judgment and decree of the learned District Judge in appeal remanding the suit, and restore the decree of the learned District Munsif dismissing the suit with costs. Following the event, the appellant will have his costs here.