1. The defendants in O. S. No. 5497 of 1967 on the file of the First Additional City Civil Judge, Madras are the appellants.
2. Plaintiffs 1 and 2, who are respectively the Director and General Manager of the Newspaper publication, 'Daily Thanthi' came forward with an action alleging that by reason of a publication effected by the defendants in the issue of the Tamil daily 'Navamani' dated 4-2-1966 (to be read as 5-2-1966 in respect of moffussil areas), the defendants had defamed the plaintiffs and were therefore liable to pay damages. The third defendant is the publisher and proprietor of the Tamil daily 'Navamani' and defendants 1 and 2 are respectively the Editor and printer of the said daily. In the publication of 'Navamani' dated 4-2-1906 the, defendants caused a report to be published in the front page which, among other things, contained words to the effect that the employees of 'Daily Thanthi' were being victimised for their membership in trade unions and that the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' had resorted to beating its employees. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had falsely and maliciously edited, printed and published the report relating to 'Daily Thanthi' containing the offending words, that the defendants by making the said publication, had intended to convey to the public that the plaintiffs had descended to the low level of Treating their employees with sticks and by reason of such malicious allegations, the plaintiffs had been gravely injured in their credit and reputation and had been brought to odium and contempt in the eyes of the public and had thereby suffered pain and humiliation. Quantifying the damages claimed by them at Rs. 25,000/-, the plaintiffs sought a decree of court in their favour for the said sum of Rs. 25,000/-together with interest at 6 per cent per annum from the date of the plaint till the date of realisation and costs of the suit. The defendants justified the publication effected by them, and contended that the publication related to an adjournment motion tabled on the floor of the Madras Legislative Assembly by Thiru M. Kalyanasundaram, M. L. A. who moved the adjournment on behalf of the workers of 'Daily Thanthi' and the proceedings of the House in relation to the said adjournment motion. They averred that the report, though not a verbatim one, was a faithful summarisation of the proceedings in the House and the publication had been effected in the normal course of the publishing activity of 'Navamani' and its wonted practice of publishing the proceedings of the Legislature. To point out that the defendants had not done anything abnormal or extraordinary, the defendants contended that some other newspapers also had published the proceedings of the House relating to the adjournment motion tabled by Thiru M. Kalyanasundaram. An express denial was made by the defendants of having effected the publication either falsely or maliciously and in furtherance of any oblique motive to make the public believe that the plaintiffs had descended to such unbecoming act as beating their employees, The defendants characterised as incorrect allegations, the plaint averments that the plaintiffs had been gravely injured in their credit and reputation and had been brought to public odium and contempt and the resultant suffering of pain and humiliation by the plaintiffs.
3. In any event, the defendants contended that, the publication made in 'Navamani' which the plaintiffs' claim as being false and malicious in content and defamatory in character, was a protected act by virtue of its being a privileged and faithful publication of the proceedings of the Assembly relating to a matter of public importance. On all those grounds, the defendants refuted the claim of the plaintiffs for damages.
4. The learned First Additional Judge, City Civil Court, set the following issues for trial in the suit;--
(1) Is the publication dated 4-2-1966 entitled (Original in Tamil Omitted --Ed.) per se defamatory?
(2) If so, is the publication protected, being a privileged publication.
(3) To what damages, it any, is the plaintiff entitled?
5. Having regard to the stand taken by the defendants, viz., that the publication complained of, which has been marked in the case as Exhibit A-1, was not defended by them on the ground that it was not per se defamatory, but only on the ground that the publication was a privileged one by virtue of its being a faithful and accurate report of the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly, the learned trial Judge held on issue No. 1 that the impugned publication was per se defamatory, After elaborately considering the question, with reference to English and Indian decisions, whether the defendants were entitled to claim absolute privilege in respect of the publication, he held that the defendants were only entitled to a qualified privilege and further held that such qualified privilege cannot also be claimed by the defendants as the publication was vitiated by malice, and consequently, he answered issue No. 2 in favour of the plaintiffs. On the question of damages covered under issue No. 3, the learned trial Judge concluded that a sum of Rs. 5,000/- would be a reasonable compensation awarded to the plaintiffs for the injury sustained by them, but nevertheless, held that the defendants should suffer full costs as the plaintiffs, who had, of necessity, to evaluate their claim only on an estimated basis, ought not to suffer by reason of their claim for damages being allowed only in part. In accordance with such conclusions, the learned trial Judge gave judgment in favour of the plaintiffs and decreed them damages of Rs. 5000/- and full costs, and it is as against that that the defendants have come up in appeal.
6. It is common ground that Exhibit A-1 relates to an adjournment motion tabled in the Assembly by Thiru M. Kalyanasundaram with reference to the safety and welfare of the employees of 'Daily Thanthi' and that Exhibit A-1 is not an article by the editor or one of the reporters of the third defendant. It is equally a matter of settled ground that any speech made on the floor of the Parliament or a Legislative Assembly by a respective member of the august to rums will be absolutely privileged. In the instant case, the grievance projected for consideration by the plaintiffs is not that Thiru Kalyanasundaram made false and defamatory remarks on the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' and cast aspersions on its fair and respectable name, but that the defendants, who were responsible for the editing, printing and publication of the Tamil daily 'Navamani' which had a circulation of about 25000 copies per day at the relevant time, would not be entitled to claim absolute or qualified privilege, taking umbrage under the plea that what was published was a faithful depiction of the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly over a matter concerning public importance, Undoubtedly, a newspaper publication of Parliamentary proceedings, which terminology would include Assembly proceedings as well, cannot be placed on the same pedestal as a speech made by the Legislator himself on the floor of the House and treated as an absolutely privileged one. Vide: Gatley on Libel and Slander, 6th Edition, page 201, Chapter 13, relating to 'Qualified Privilege, Duty and Interest', Paragraph 442 (Main Classes) which states that such publications can claim only qualified privilege.
'The following classes of statement (some of which owe their protection to statute) illustrate, but do not exhaust the general principle; for we may not 'substitute a catalogue for a principle'.
(6) Reports of parliamentary proceedings.
(7) Extracts from, or abstracts of, parliamentary reports, papers, votes, or proceedings published by the authority of Parliament.'
As a matter of fact, even the very member of Parliament or Legislative Assembly, who is privileged to make even a libellous statement on the floor of the House without any hazard of a legal action in respect of the speech, cannot repeat the speech or publish even an exact reproduction of what was said by him during the debate of the House outside the House. In Harbhajan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Punjab High Court held as follows:
'The members of the Legislative Assembly and of the Parliament are absolutely privileged and they can make with immunity libellous statements while participating in the deliberations of the House and the Court has no jurisdiction to entertain an action in respect of defamatory utterances by them as the members, under the law, are not amenable to civil or criminal action, despite the fact that the statements are grossly defamatory and deliberately false. This privilege, however, does not extend to a statement published by a member, outside the House even though it may be an exact reproduction of what was said during the debate.'
The Supreme Court, in Jatis Chandra v. Hari Sadhan : 1961CriLJ743 laid down as follows:
'So long as Parliament does not crystallise the legal position by its own legislation, the privileges, powers and immunities of a House of a State Legislature or Parliament or of its members are the same as those of the House of Commons. There is no absolute privilege attaching to the publication of extracts from proceedings in the House of Commons. So far as a member of the House of Commons is concerned, he has an absolute privilege in respect of what he has spoken within the four walls of the House, but there is only a qualified privilege in his favour even in respect of what he has himself said in the House, if he causes the same to be published in the public Press.' The dictum is therefore well established now that a newspaper report of proceedings in a Legislative forum, as the one we are concerned with in the instant case, is not entitled to an absolute privilege, but only to qualified privilege. Having regard to the settled state of affairs, Mr. K. V. Sankaran, learned counsel for the defendants, frankly conceded that he was not seeking to justify the publication under Exhibit A-1 from the standpoint of absolute privilege, but only from the standpoint of qualified privilege, which, according to the learned counsel, is unreservedly invocable by the defendants in their role as editor, printer and publisher of a newspaper. It therefore becomes necessary for us to consider whether the defendants, by objectively contending the dictum of qualified privilege, can resist the claim of the plaintiffs for damages.
7. Any party who wishes to project objectively a coverage under the umbrella of qualified privilege must primordially' satisfy three cardinal tests, viz., (1) that the publication is a true and faithful report of the proceedings, (2) that the published matter is of importance to the public and (3) that it was not actuated by any malice or oblique motive, With regard to the second feature concerning the publication being a matter of public importance, Mr. Sankaran would contend that the proceedings of the State Legislature must unquestionably be held to be matters of public importance, and would draw support for his argument by making reference to other newspapers also publishing in the columns of their dailies the adjournment motion tabled by Thiru Kalyanasundaram regarding the service conditions of the workers of 'Daily Thanthi'. In particular, he placed reliance on Exhibits B-2 and B-3, which are respectively an issue of the Tamil Daily 'Sudesamithran' dated 4-2-1966 and an issue of the English Daily 'The Hindu' dated 5-2-1966, wherein also publication has been made regarding the adjournment motion tabled by Thiru Kalyanasundaram on 4-2-1966 on the floor of the House, Yet another factor on which great stress was laid by the learned counsel in this behalf is the admission of the first plaintiff as P. W. 1 in his cross-examination that an adjournment motion in the Assembly is an important item for publication. Refuting the contentions of Mr. Sankaran, Mr. V. Shanmugham, learned counsel for the plaintiffs, points out that the Speaker of the Assembly withheld his consent to the motion of adjournment on the score that it was not a matter of public importance, and argued that the publication, merely because it related to a matter raised in the Assembly and had been published by other newspapers as well, cannot axiomatically be granted recognition as a matter of public importance and thereby deemed to satisfy the second pre-requisite inhering to the legal doctrine of qualified privilege. We shall advert to this controversy after referring to the arguments of the counsel about the publication being a true and faithful record of the speech made by the Legislator and the proceedings of the House in connection therewith.
8. As we have already stated, besides the publication being a matter of public importance, another sine qua non to attract the umbrage offered by the shield of qualified privilege is that the publication must be a true and faithful report of the proceedings. Mr. Sankaran would contend that Exhibit A-1, far from being an incorrect or garbled version of the proceedings of the House, is really a considerate report from the view-point of the plaintiff and therefore, there is hardly any grace in the plaintiffs contending that the publication depicts them in blacker tones than what the maker of the speech himself had depicted. At this juncture, we may point that Exhibit A-1 is not a reproduction or a verbatim report of the proceedings of the House. D. W. 1 the Sub-Editor or 'Navamani' has candidly stated that he does not know Shorthand, that the discussion on the floor of the House went on for about ten or fifteen minutes, that when the discussion went on he carved the speeches in his mind, that he then went over to the press room and reduced the speech of Thiru Kalyanasundaram into a summary, that he did not add anything more to what the tabler of the motion had spoken and that, on the other hand, he omitted words. ('Original in Tamil omitted --Ed.)
9. In order to prove that the version published as under Exhibit A-1 has not done any injustice or violation to the speech of Thiru Kalyanasundaram made on the floor of the House, the defendants have filed Exhibit B-l (which is the same as Exhibit A-2) which is an official report of the Madras Assembly Legislative Debates (Volumes 33-7, Pages 591-592). Besides Exhibit B-l, the defendants have also placed reliance on Exhibits B-2 and B-3 to maintain their claim that the publication effected under Exhibit A-1 is neither a garbled nor an inaccurate reporting of the proceedings in the House, As against such a stand taken by the defendants, Mr. Shanmugham learned counsel for the plaintiffs, advances the argument that Exhibit A-1 makes no reference to the denials made by the Chief Minister of instances being brought to the notice of the Government of the workers of 'Daily Thanthi' being persecuted for their trade union activities by the Management and propounds the theory that willful suppression has been made in Exhibit A-1, of the Assembly proceedings for achieving the motivated objective of depicting the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' in black and disreputable colour. Even so, the publications made by 'Sudesamithran' and The Hindu', under Exhibits B-2 and B-3, are relied on by the counsel for the plaintiffs for comparative study with Exhibit A-1, to point out that Exhibits B-2 and B-3 do not make reference to the workers being victimised ('Original in Tamil omitted --Ed).' and the management of 'Daily Thanthi' descending to the level of beating its workers. As a matter of fact, the first plaintiff, who has given evidence as P. W. 1, has affirmed in his evidence that the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' has no grievance whatever in so far as Exhibits B-2 and B 3 publications are concerned, because they do not make reference to the workers of 'Daily Thanthi' being beaten by the Management and being victimised for their trade union activities. Having made reference to the differing arguments advanced by counsel for both sides on two of the three ingredients which are inextricably woven into the fabric of the doctrine of qualified privilege, we are of opinion, that in the view we are taking of the third essential ingredient of the doctrine, it is unnecessary to go into the question as to whether the publication under Exhibit A-1 is a faithful and true report of the proceedings and whether the matter covered by the Publication is one of public importance.
10. The third primordial requisite which must be successfully pleaded and established by means of acceptable evidence before a Court in a manner known to law for a publication being taken out of the pale of any legal action on the principle of qualified privilege is that the publication was effected without malice, In our opinion, the quintessence of a defence based on the principle of qualified privilege is that the utterance or the publication complained of was done for bona fide reasons and not actuated by any malice. It this context, it is necessary to take a look at the symbolical image of the shield offered by the principle of qualified privilege and the reason for the law giving such a concession to a person who is faced with an action for making a defamatory speech or publication. We can achieve our object in this behalf by referring to the following passages occurring in Gately on Libel and Slander, 6th Edition. In paragraph 441, at page 201, the concept of qualified privilege is defined thus:
'There are occasions upon which, on grounds of public policy and convenience a person may, without incurring legal liability, make statements about another which are defamatory and in fact untrue. ........ .These occasions are called occasions of qualified privilege, for the protection which the law, on grounds of public policy, affords is not absolute, but depends on the honesty of purpose with which the defamatory statement is made'.
The reason for such a defence being made available in law is given in the following words in paragraph 443 (at page 202):
'Statements published on an occasion of qualified privilege are protected for the common convenience and welfare of the society. It was in the public interest that the rules of our law relating to privileged occasions and privileged communications were introduced because it is in the public interest that persons should be allowed to speak freely on occasions when it is their duty to speak and to tell all they know or believe, or on occasions when it is necessary to speak in the protection of some '(self of) common interest.' In such cases no matter how harsh, hasty, untrue or libellous the publication would be, but for the circumstances the law declares it privileged because the amount of public inconvenience from the restriction of freedom of speech or writing would far outbalance that arising from the infliction of a private injury. It may be unfortunate that a person against whom a charge that is not true is made should have no redress, but it would be contrary to public policy and the general interest of business and society that persons should he hampered in the discharge of their duty or the exercise of their rights by constant fears of actions for slander, It is better for the general good that the individuals should occasionally suffer than the freedom of communications between persons in certain relations should be in any way impeded.'
11. Such right which is given to the publisher of a statement to make an inroad into the personal rights of an individual in the interests of the public is, however, subject to the primordial condition that the publication is not blemished or tainted with the mental factor of malice or what is known as animus injuriandi in Roman Dutch law. Such publication besides satisfying the test of being a fair and accurate report and of being deemed by the publisher to be a matter of public importance, must also be made with bona fide intentions and an element of honesty. If such element of honesty and such content of bona fides are absent and, on the other hand, it is found that malice is the motivating reason for the publication, then, however true and accurate the report may be or however important the matter concerned is, in so far as the public interest is concerned, yet the protective cloak of qualified privilege offered by law for the publication must be read asunder so as to make the publisher vulnerable for the consequences of is act, in so far as it has roused the person aggrieved by the publication to action. Gatley has dealt with this aspect of the matter in the following passage occurring at paragraph 602.
'The publication in print of an extract from, or abstract of, any Parliamentary report, paper, vote, or proceedings published by or under the authority of either House of Parliament is privileged, provided the defendant proves that he published such extract or abstract bona fide and without malice.' (Italics ours.)
Again, it is stated in paragraph 601 that the privilege extended in common law to a fair accurate report in a newspaper or otherwise of any debate or proceedings in either House of Parliament or in any Committee thereof will be lost on proof that the defendant published the report maliciously. Such being the law, a probe is called for of the impugned I publication to find out whether the element of malice, which the plaintiffs allege looms large in the publication effected by the defendants, is detectable and deducible in a manner known to law. Before proceeding to conduct the probe, we may also point out that in respect of false and defamatory publications which are projected under the mantle of qualified privilege, the presumption of malice which would normally be raised in respect of false and defamatory publications will initially stand rebutted by the privilege claimed by the publisher and in all such eases it is the bounden duty of the plaintiff to plead and prove express malice on the part of the person responsible for the publication, and, once the plaintiff proves express malice, the defence of qualified privilege will co instant vanish. Gately has dealt with this phase of the subject in paragraph 7(31 as follows:
''The principle upon which the law of qualified privilege rests is this: that where words are published which are both false and defamatory, the law presumes malice on the part of the person who publishes them. The publication may, however, take place under circumstances which create a qualified privilege. If so, the presumption of malice is rebutted by the privilege;.......... The plaintiff has to prove express malice on the part of the person responsible for the publication. The effect of proving express malice is somethings spoken of as defeating the privilege. Although the occasion remains a privileged occasion, the privilege afforded by the occasion ceases to be an effective weapon of defence. Qualified privilege is a defence only to the extent that it throws on the plaintiff the burden of proving express malice. Directly the plaintiff succeeds in doing [his, the defence vanishes and it becomes immaterial that the publication was on a privileged occasion.' In R. K. Karanjia v. K. M. D. Thackersey : AIR1970Bom424 it is stated as follows:
'Malice in law, which is presumed in every false and defamatory statement, stands rebutted by a privileged occasion. 'In such a case, in order to make libel actionable, the burden of proving actual or express malice is always on the plaintiff.'
It is in this background the contention of the plaintiff that the impugned publication is vitiated by malice has got to be evaluated.
12. The second defendant who is the printer and News Editor of 'Navamani' has admitted in his evidence that before joining the 'Navamani' publication as its Editor in 1966, he was the Assistant News Editor in 'Daily Thanthi' for thirteen years, that during such tenure of service there was a dispute regarding implementation of the recommendations of the Wage Board for working journalists, that the Management ultimately settled the dispute by paying a sum of Rupees 55,000/- to ten journalists on the register of its employment and that he was one among the ten journalists who were so paid. In cross-examination he has stated that the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' took disciplinary action against him and that the charge against him was that he conducted an illegal strike. From the admissions of the second defendant as D. W, 2 it may thus be seen that he was a former employee of 'Daily Thanthi' and that he left the services of 'Daily Thanthi' after disputes and misunderstandings had arisen between him and the Management. Though the second defendant had ceased to be an employee of 'Daily Thanthi'', it is seen from the evidence of P. W. 1 that the second defendant did not treat his disputes with the Management as a closed affair and that all the scores bad been settled. It would appear that on 29-11-1965 there was an agitation by some of the workers of 'Daily Thanthi' in front of the office and according to P. W. 1, the second defendant was one of those who participated in the demonstration. This was followed by a bigger demonstration on 30-11-1965 and P. Ws. 1 and 2 have both stated that the second defendant was participant in the demonstration on that day also. On both the days of agitation, the demonstrators are said to have shouted slogans to the effect. 'Original in Tamil omitted --Ed.' P. W. 2 has stated in his evidence that the second defendant took part in the demonstrations because of his misunderstandings with 'Daily Thanthi' Management. It is _ in respect of these demonstrations. Thini Kalyanasundaram tabled his adjournment motion on the floor of the House on 4-2-1966, and, according to the speech made by him, the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' had resorted to beating its employees and penalising its workers for their trade union activities. P. Ws. 1 and 2 would impliedly say that no worker was beaten on the days of the demostrations and it is therefore the contention of the plaintiffs that Exhibit A-1 publication effected by the defendants was false as well as malicious, In the plaint it is averred that the impugned publication was falsely and maliciously edited, printed and published by the defendants. In his evidence P. W, 1 has stated as follows: 'In the issue dated 4-2-1966, city edition, the defendants bave published falsely and maliciously a news item about our Management. It is Exhibit A-1, I say 'falsely' because it is false news. At the time of publishing the said news they knew and meant and intended to mean that we, the Management, had descended to beat per employees with sticks. That is wholly incorrect. It was published maliciously without any regard for truth or fact. I say 'maliciously' because their intention is to bring down our reputation in the eyes of the public.' Though such express allegations have been made about the defendants and tbe publication effected by them, and in particular about the part played by the second defendant, significantly enough the defendants have not refuted the plaint averments or the evidence of P. Ws. 1 and 2. All that D, W. I had stated in his evidence is that he had no particular intention to harm the 'Daily Thanthis' reputation. For his part, D. W. 2, who is the News Editor and who is responsible with the Publisher for every item of publication in the newspaper, has nowhere stated that he did not participate in the demonstrations which were staged by the workers of 'Daily Thanthi' on the 29th and the 30th of November, 1965. Even so, be has not stated that the workers of the 'Daily Thanthi' were beaten by the Management on the 29th or the 30th and that he was a witness to such base acts by the Management. On the other hand. D, W. 2 when confronted with the question as to whether he can vouchsafe for the truth of the matter contained in Exhibit A-1 publication, has given the following answer; 'I do not know, whether that news item (Exhibit A-1) was true or was not true.' It is thus seen that we have, on the one hand, the categorical assertion of the plaintiffs that the second defendant, though he ceased to be an employee of 'Daily Thanthi', did participate in the demonstrations held by the workers in front of the 'Daily Thanthi' office on tbe 29th and the 30th of November 1965, that the Management did not indulge in any base or ignoble acts on those days and that nevertheless, the second defendant did publish Exhibit A-1 unmindful of the fact that the reference therein to the Management of 'Daily Thanthi' beating its employees was false and op the other hand a hesitant attempt by the defendants to wriggle out of the situation caused by the publication by feigning ignorance as to the truth or otherwise of the matters contained in Exhibit A-1. Having regard to the specific averments made by the plaintiffs and the total failure of the defendants to meet the case of the plaintiffs or even deny the charge leveled by the plaintiffs unhesitatingly, the contention of the plaintiffs that the publication under Exhibit A-1 it unmistakably actuated by malice, is established beyond the realm of any doubt. We are not satisfied with the statement of the second defendant, and that too, made in answer to the suggestion put to him ip cross-examination, that it was not correct to say that on account of misunderstandings between him and the Management of 'Daily Thanthi', Exhibit A-1 was published in 'Navamani' despite its being an incorrect publication.
13. Mr. Sankaran, however, seeks to rescue the second defendant from his position of disadvantage by contending that exhibit A-1 publication was made without the knowledge of the second defendant and that the second defendant can be called upon to face the consequences, of the publication only in coo sequence of his statutory responsibility as the Editor of the Newspaper. We are not at all impressed by this argument. It is no doubt true, D. W. 2 has stated in his evidence that he saw Exhibit A-1 news only after its publication and that he is admitting responsibility for the publication only as an Editor of the newspaper and thereby, a person statutorily responsible for all the publications effected in 'Navamani'. In contrast to such answers given by D. W. 2 in cross-examination, we may point out, what his stand was in the chief-examination, with reference to the publication under Exhibit A-1. Therein, he has stated as follows: 'I saw Exhibit A-l. I published the news as it was sent to me by D. W. 1, I did not change the news'. After having given such answers, D. W. 2 seems to have realised the consequences of his statements and has tried to wriggle out of his answers by stating that the particular news did not pass through his hands and he came to know about the publication only after it was printed and published. If really D. W. 2 had not seen the publication before it was effected, he would not have said that he saw Exhibit A-1 and that he did not effect any change in the text of exhibit A-1. We have therefore no hesitation in holding that D. W. 2 has unsuccessfully tried to contend, after initially admitting that the report did pass through his hands before being published, that he had no control over the publication, only to get over the charge of the plaintiffs that though he knew the contents of Exhibit A-1 to be false and incorrect, and yet he published the same on account of animus injuriandi and the malice he entertained towards the Management of 'Daily Thanthi'. It therefore follows that when the second defendant effected the publication, the contents of which were false and incorrect to his knowledge, the irresistible conclusion that such publication would lead to is that it was not made honestly, but was made with malice and dishonest motive. We may again quote with advantage the following passage of Gately which lays down as to what construction should follow when a defendant is proved to have published a matter which he knew to be false at the time he made the publication:
'Where words are published on a privileged occasion, the mere proof that they are false is not evidence of malice. Even though the statement should be untrue in fact, the defendant will be held justified by the occasion unless it can be shown to have proceeded from a malicious mind. Mere falsehood is certainly no disproof of bona fides. To prove that the defendant knew that the statement was false or that he had no genuine belief in its truth when he made it would, usually, be conclusive evidence of malice. If a man is proved to have stated that which he knew to be false, no one need enquire further. Everybody assumes thenceforth that it was malicious, that he did do a wrong thing from some wrong motive, Indeed it is difficult to imagine better proof of malice than the promulgation of an injurious statement in the knowledge of its falsity.'
We are therefore clearly of opinion that in as much as the second defendant, being the Editor of 'Navamani', published Exhibit A-1, portions of which were admittedly false to the knowledge of the second defendant when the publication was effected, the second defendant as well as the first and third defendants, must certainly be held to have defamed the plaintiffs and that they are not entitled to don the protective mantle of qualified privilege to escape in law the consequence of their action.
14. It only now remains for us to consider the arguments advanced by counsel on both sides as regards the quantum of damages. Though the plaintiffs had quantified their claim of damages at Rs. 25,000/-, they have not let in any evidence to show the basis on which they assessed the damages at such figure. The learned trial Judge, whilst awarding the sum of Rs. 5,000/- to the plaintiffs as against their claim of Rupees 25,000/- towards damages, has not given any reason as to how he arrived at this figure. Mr. Sankaran would contend that inasmuch as the second defendant is only earning Rs. 490/- as the Printer and News Editor of 'Navamani' and the third defendant, though the Publisher and Proprietor of Navamani', is nothing more than the President of the Co-operative Society which publishes the newspaper in question, even the award of Rs. 5,000/- is excessive, and that only a nominal sum should be awarded as damages and that the real objective of the plaintiffs was not to penalise the defendants by mulcting them with a burdensome award, but only the vindication of their honour. There is considerable force in this argument of Mr. Sankaran, but at the same time, we do not concede the position that a nominal award would meet the ends of justice in this case, as there is not even a formal expression of regret by the defendants. Taking all factors into consideration, we are of opinion that a sum of Rs. 2,000/- would be a just and reasonable sum to be awarded as damages in this case as against the defendants. We see no justification, for the learned trial Judge having awarded full costs to the plaintiffs. Costs which should follow the event should normally be in consonance with the sum decreed in favour of a plaintiff and it is only in exceptional cases that full costs should be awarded even though the claim made by the plaintiff is not allowed in full. We see no such exceptional circumstances present in this case, to justify costs being awarded in respect of the disallowed portion of the suit claim also.
15. In the result, while confirming the finding of the trial Court on Issues Nos. I and 2, we hold that the plaintiffs' suit will stand decreed as against the defendants and that the defendants should pay to the plaintiffs damages in the sum of Rs. 2,000/-with proportionate costs in the trial Court, as against the sum of Rs. 5,000/- and full costs awarded by the trial Judge. To this extent the appeal will stand allowed and will stand dismissed in other respects. The Judgment of the trial Court will stand modified to the extent it has been varied by our Judgment in this appeal. Each party is directed to bear his costs in this appeal.