Pandrang Row, J.
1. The petitioners, nineteen in number, have been convicted of the offence of defamation and sentenced under Section 500, Indian Penal Code, to pay a fine of Rs. 20 each and in default of payment to suffer simple imprisonment for one month. The defamation consisted in the presentation of a certain petition to the Sub-Inspector of Police by the residents of a certain locality in Madura against the complainant alleging that he was in the habit of getting drunk and abusing people and threatening to do evil by the use of black art and praying for protection against the complainant. There can be no doubt that the so-called defamation was the presentation of a petition to a public officer with the intention of protecting the interests of the people who sent the petition. That fact stands out unmistakably, and this outstanding fact has been practically ignored by the learned Magistrate. The case clearly fell under the 8th exception which declares that:
It is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject-matter of the accusation.
2. It is not pretended that the Sub-Inspector was not a person having lawful authority over the complainant in the present case with respect to the subject-matter of the accusation contained in the petition made to him. Good faith has to be presumed in view of the fact that it is admitted by the complainant that he does not know the accused personally and in the absence of any evidence of any express malice or enmity. Apart from the merits of the case which even on a superficial examination would have convinced any Magistrate that there was really no substance in the charge of defamation, it is argued that the Magistrate was incompetent to take cognisance of the offence inasmuch as the offence, if at all, was one of giving false information to a public officer or of making a false accusation--an offence punishable under Section 182 or 211, Indian Penal Code; offences of this nature cannot be taken cognisance of by a Magistrate in the absence of a complaint by the public servant concerned or of some authority to whom the public servant is subordinate; see Section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code. I am of opinion that this contention is well founded. Where it is clear that the publication was to a person in authority and was really intended to give information about some offences with a view to get redress or protection the offence if any must be only the furnishing of false information or the making of a false accusation. It cannot be said that the offence of defamation is also committed simply because some part of the information or the accusation may be found to be defamatory and false. The point to my mind is quite clear and it is hardly necessary to refer to the authorities relied upon by Mr. K.S. Jayarama Aiyar, namely, In re Nagarji Trikamji I.L.R.(1894) 19 Bom. 340 Prafulla Kumar Ghose v. Harendra Nath Chatterjee I.L.R.(1916) Cal. 970 and Swee Ing v. Koon Han A.I.R. 1935 Rang. 163.
3. Another ground of attack is that there is really no evidence of publication by the petitioners inasmuch as their signatures in the petition have not been proved by the prosecution. This is a serious defect. Apparently the Magistrate thought this difficulty could be cured by examining the accused themselves as to whether they had signed in the petition in the hope that they would admit it. In any case, there could have been no other reason for asking them in the course of the examination under Section 342 whether they had signed the petition, as there was no evidence whatever on the side of the prosecution to the effect that they had signed it. It is obvious that the gap in the prosecution evidence cannot be filled in this manner by examining the accused persons under Section 342, Criminal Procedure Code. It is enough in this connection to refer to Jeremiah v. Vas (1911) 22 M.L.J. 73 : I.L.R. Mad. 457 and Rangappa Goundan v. Emperors (1935) 70 M.L.J. 447 : I.L.R. Mad. 349. The examination of the accused for this purpose was contrary to law, and the prosecution cannot be permitted to rely on admissions of the accused in these circumstances. The prosecution has failed to prove that these accused have signed the petition. It follows that the present petition must be allowed and the convictions of the petitioners and the sentences imposed on them should be set aside and the fine if paid should be refunded.