1. The petitioner in both these revision petitions is a goldsmith of Thirukkarangudi village in Tirunelveli District. They raise for resolution an interesting conflict of decision between the Subordinate Judge of Tirunelveli in S.C.S. No. 92 of 1946, and the Village Panchayat Court of Kalakkad in a suit before them. On what appears precisely the same evidence they came to different findings of fact in the following curious circumstances.
2. Lakshmana Reddiar, the respondent, it is common ground, gave this goldsmith a lump of gold weighing 15.9/4 kalanjis on 12th June, 1945, to make a pair of bangles for his daughter. This is also evidenced by a receipt admittedly signed by the goldsmith and produced from Lakshmana Reddiar's custody. Lakshmana Reddiar's case set out in a notice Ex. P-2, dated 20th June, 1946, was a demand on the goldsmith to make and deliver the bangles or to return the gold. This was countered by a reply, Ex. D-I, dated 28th June, 1946, by the goldsmith to the effect that he had made the bangles and delivered them to Lakshmana Reddiar on 4th August 1945, and he claimed Rs. 52-8-0 for making charges and some gold which he supplied. Lakshmana Reddiar filed a Small Cause suit in the Sub-Court on 20th July, 1946, to recover Rs. 585 as value of the gold he had given to the goldsmith. The goldsmith filed a suit in the Thirukkarangudi Panchayat Court for Rs. 50 as making charges of the bangles alleging that he had in fact delivered them to Lakshmana Reddiar. On the application of Lakshmana Reddiar the District Munsiff of Ambasamudram transferred the suit to the Panchayat Court of Kalakkad village about six miles away.
3. The learned Subordinate Judge decreed Lakshmana Reddiar's suit in full on 7th October, 1946, finding that though gold had been handed over to the goldsmith according to the chit, Ex. P-I signed by him and produced from the possession of Lakshmana Reddiar, the goldsmith had delivered no bangles at all, his defence being rejected in toto. Lakshmana Reddiar was the only witness examined, while the defendant examined himself and three other witnesses. One was Piraviperumal Pillai, D.W. 2, who was no other than the President of the Thirukkarangudi Panchayat Court, who actually swore that he personally saw the goldsmith hand over the bangles to Lakshmana Reddiar. He further said that in the Panchayat Court itself on 18th July, 1946, when Lakshmana Reddiar appeared before them and asked for further time he told him that he had himself seen the goldsmith hand over the jewels to him. The next witness, one Muhammad Ali D.W. 3, said he was in the Panchayat Court when this case was called up when Lakshmana Reddiar said he would go home and bring the bangles. One Sudalaikuluva Naicker (D.W. 4) also swore that he actually saw the goldsmith giving the bangles to Lakshmana Reddiar. Rejecting this evidence and acting mainly on the receipt for the lump of gold, Ex. P-I, which the goldsmith has not taken back from Lakshmana Reddiar, the learned Subordinate Judge decreed the suit on the basis of the plaint claim that the lump of gold was of sovereign quality.
4. The Kalakkad Panchayat Court took the other suit up for hearing after the Subordinate Judge had disposed of the Small Cause suit. Under Section 17 of the Village Courts Act, no Village Court shall try any suit which has been heard and determined by a Court of competent jurisdiction in a former suit between the same parties. The Panchayat Court was aware of this section and gave it a curious interpretation. They took the view that the suit filed in the Panchayat Court was earlier in point of time and the decision of the Subordinate Judge did not therefore preclude them from trying the suit. They heard exactly the same witnesses and came to a totally different finding to the effect that the goldsmith had actually made these bangles and delivered them to Lakshmana Reddiar. They accordingly decreed the suit after an elaborate judgment written in Tamil and signed by seven members of the Court. Lakshmana Reddiar applied to the District Munsiff in revision, who found himself in a position of obvious difficulty. Holding that the Panchayat Court should not have taken upon itself to decide a suit which had already been decided by the Subordinate Judge, and moreover, on no real ground, that the Panchayat Court were biased in favour of the goldsmith he set aside their decree and withdrew the suit to his own file for disposal pending disposal of the revision petition, C.R.P. No. 265 of 1947, filed by the goldsmith in this Court. Subsequently the goldsmith filed the other revision petition, No. 1392 of 1947, to revise the District Munsiff's order.
5. It is obvious that the two decrees based on entirely conflicting findings of fact cannot stand. Mr. Srinivasagopalachari urges that there are no legal grounds for any interference in revision with the judgment of the Subordinate Judge on fact, and that this is a case in which his judgment should be upheld, the Village Court having no jurisdiction to try the suit before it, the main issue in which had already been decided by a higher Court. In fairness to the parties, the learned Subordinate Judge and the District Munsiff and also the Panchayat Court, it appears to me that this conflict of finding requires close scrutiny and a disposal on its merits. I have carefully perused the evidence on record and also the elaborate judgment written in this case by the President of the Panchayat Court. I am quite satisfied that the Panchayat Court judgment has not been in any way the result of any bias or prejudice or that the Court was animated by any disrespect or disregard of the Subordinate Judge's findings. I am convinced that in this case there has been a perfectly bona fide finding of fact given on the same evidence both by the learned Subordinate Judge and also by the Village Panchayat Court. The Subordinate Judge being dissatisfied with some of the oral evidence, based his decision on the chit or receipt for the jewel signed by the goldsmith which Lakshmana Reddiar was able to produce. Ordinarily one would have expected the goldsmith to have asked for this chit back at the time he delivered the bangles. But if that delivery had been made in the presence of others, this is not a very serious omission. I am quite satisfied that this conflict of a decision on fact by two Courts on the same evidence is due to the simple fact that neither Lakshmana Reddiar nor the goldsmith has placed the truth before the Court, both taking extreme positions, the truth lying between their cases. The Village Panchayat Court in their judgment, were quite convinced that the goldsmith's case that he made and handed over the bangles to Lakshmana Reddiar was true, and with the President of the Thirukkarangudi Panchayat Court himself deposing that he witnessed this delivery personally, supported as he was by two other village witnesses, it certainly cannot be said that their finding is not in accordance with the weight of evidence. It has also to be remembered that the Panchayat Court had a considerable advantage in some ways over the Subordinate Judge before whom witnesses were deposing a long way from their village. Lakshmana Reddiar deposing in his own rural environment may not have been able to impress the Panchayat Court in the same way that with expert legal assistance he impressed the learned Subordinate Judge.
6. A decree of Court should represent the truth so far as it lies in the power of the Court to ascertain it. It however does happen that the truth is often concealed between two extreme cases, and under the doctrine of either accepting the plaintiff's case in toto or accepting the defendant's case in toto many Court decrees expose themselves to criticism that they are not in accordance with strict truth. It appears to be established by the evidence that the goldsmith did hand over these bangles to Lakshmana Reddiar, but what transpired subsequently, it is difficult to say. It is probable that Lakshmana Reddiar, after he got these bangles tested, found the quality of the gold very inferior to that of the gold which he handed over and that a subsequent dispute between the parties resulted in their coming to two different Courts with two extreme cases, Lakshmana Reddiar putting the goldsmith in the position of a person who had misappropriated all the gold and had not made him any bangles at all. Had this been the case, it is reasonable to expect Lakshmana Reddiar to have rushed in the first instance to a criminal Court. The goldsmith countered with a claim for making charges, etc., on the basis that he had utilised all the gold which Lakshmana Reddiar had given him for the making of bangles which were actually delivered. In cases of this kind, when a plaintiff conceals the truth and does not place the full facts before the Court, the only course possible is to dismiss his suit in toto. The bangles which I believe were made by the goldsmith have not been produced. It is unnecessary to speculate as regards this, there being more than one possibility. It may be that the bangles were handed over to Lakshmana Reddiar who sometime later handed them back to the goldsmith. The only just inference to be drawn from these two suits on which two different Courts have come to conflicting findings of fact is that the plaintiff in the small cause suit before the Subordinate Judge and also the plaintiff before the Village Panchayat Court have not come to Court with clean hands. The only way in which plaintiffs can be stopped from coming to Court with extremely exaggerated and substantially false cases based on a substratum of truth is by dismissing the suits in toto if the Court has good reason to believe that they have not disclosed the truth in their plaints and evidence. It is impossible to expect a Court to ferret out the exact truth between two extreme positions in all cases. This, I think, is the simple explanation for this very interesting conflict between the Subordinate Judge hearing the suit in a town and a Panchayat Court in a village, and coming to diametrically opposed findings.
7. The only just and equitable disposal these two suits should receive is, in the view I have taken, dismissal without any order as to costs. The decree of the Subordinate Judge is set aside, the small cause suit before him being dismissed without costs, and the suit in the Village Panchayat Court which is now before the District Munsiff is similarly dismissed without any order as to costs. On these revision petitions the parties will bear their own costs.