1. These two revision cases are closely connected. The petitioners are the same in both. They were convicted by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Ramnad for an offence under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code in C.C. Nos. 253 and 257 of 1945 on his file and sentenced in each case to pay a fine of Rs. 20 each, in default to suffer simple imprisonment for two weeks.
2. The charges against them in the two cases are founded on certain statements made by them in the written statement filed by them in C.C. No. 5 of 1945 on the file of the Additional First Class Magistrate, Ramnad, in which case they were the accused. The material part of the written statement filed by them therein marked as Ex. A is as follows:
Paragraph 14. P.W. 2's father and his senior paternal uncle were accused along with Chottachami Thevar, father-in-law of Mappilaisami Thevar, in a dacoity case, R.C. No. 5 of 1916 filed by accused 2. P.W. 3, Tirumal Kone's wife is being kept by Mappilaisami.Thevar for the past two years and she is given jewels worth Rs. 300 and two bulls and eight kalams of paddy through P.W. 2 every year. The said Chottachami Thevar was keeping his wife's cousin Papathi and she is given ten kurrukams of Kolangorvai.
3. In C.C. No. 5 of 1945, the petitioners were charged for the offence of rioting. It was a part of the case of the petitioners that the prosecution was at the instigation of Mappilaisami Thevar who is described in the written statement as a rich and influential man and the father-in-law of the Rajah of Ramnad. According to them, the prosecution witnesses were partisans and satellites of that man. Though it may not be very important, it may be mentioned that the Magistrate who tried the case found that the allegation of the accused that Mappilaisami Thevar and his agents were at the back of the complaint was substantiated to some extent. Whether this be so or not, the petitioners obviously believed that the case was foisted on. them at the instance of Mappilaisami Thevar and his agents.
4. In C.C. No. 253 of 1945 the complainant is one Velusami Thevar, a near relation of Chottachami Thevar, who appears to have died in 1941. In the other case, C.C. No. 257 of 1945 the complainant is Tirumal Kone, who was P.W. 3 in C.C. No. 5 of 1945.
5. Mr. Rangaswami Aiyangar, learned advocate for the petitioners in both the cases, contended that even assuming that the statements contained in paragraph 14 of the written statement referred to above were defamatory, the statements neverthe-less fell within exception 9 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and the petitioners were not liable to be convicted of the offence of defamation. To secure the pro-tection of that exception it is necessary that the imputation should have been made in good faith and for the protection of the interest of the person making it or of any other person or for the public good. There is no question here of the imputation being for the public good. It is therefore necessary to determine whether the imputation was made in good faith and for the protection of the interest of the petitioners.
6. It appears to me to be clear that the statements in question were made for the sole purpose of discrediting the witnesses for the prosecution and in particular P.W. 3. As it was an integral part of the case for the accused that the prosecution against them was foisted on them at the instance of Mappilaisami Thevar, any statements connecting any of the prosecuting witnesses intimately with Mappilaisami Thevar and his agents should be deemed to be statements made for the protection of the interests of the petitioners. It was urged by Mr. Krishna Rao for the complainants in both the cases that the fact that Tirumal Kone's wife is alleged to have been kept by Mappilaisami Thevar does not necessarily lead to the inference that P.W. 3 would be amicably disposed towards Mappilaisami Thevar. Whether this is so or not would really depend upon the circumstances. If Mappilaisami Thevar, as he was alleged to be, was a rich and influential man and highly connected and Tirumal Kone could obtain substantial material benefit by reason of his wife's intimacy with Mappilaisami Thevar, the allegation that on that account Tirumal Kone is likely to be under the influence of Mappilaisami Thevar is not extravagant. It is true that Chottachami Thevar was himself dead at the time the statement was made but Chottachami Thevar was no other than the father-in-law of Mappilaisami Thevar and if he was keeping Tirumal Kone's wife's relation and Tirumal Kone's wife herself was the concubine of Mappilaisami Thevar it cannot be said that the accused were making totally irrelevant statements for their purpose which really was to completely discredit P.W. 3 and P.W. 2 to a certain extent, through whom it was alleged that the jewels and bulls and paddy were given to Tirumal Kone's wife. The statements therefore must be held to have been made for the protection of the interests of the petitioners.
7. It next falls to be considered whether the imputations were made in good faith. I do not think that there can be any rule of thumb to determine in any particular case whether an imputation is made in good faith or not. Good faith is relative to a great extent and must be determined by the circumstances under which the imputation was made, the social status and level of education of the persons making the imputation and their reasoning capacity. The Magistrate has held that it has not been established that the allegations contained in the statements made by the petitioners are true. That may be so. But that finding is not tantamount to an absence of good faith. Having regard to the evidence led on behalf of the defence, it cannot be said that there were no facts at all from which persons in the position of the petitioners could not reasonably have formed an impression that there was intimacy between Tirumal Kone's wife and Mappilaisami Thevar and likewise between Papathi and Chottachami Thevar. It cannot be said that the imputations were so reckless that good faith must be deemed to have been totally absent. The petitioners were persons who were not well educated. They were faced with a criminal prosecution for rioting, a serious charge, and it was not without reason that they also suspected that the whole case had been foisted by a powerful man like Mappilaisami Thevar. In such circumstances any imputation that they made to attack the credibility of one or other of the prosecution witnesses must be held to have been made in good faith.
8. The statements therefore would fall within the ninth exception to Section 499' Indian Penal Code, and the petitioners cannot be convicted of an offence under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.
9. The convictions and sentences are hereby set aside and the petitioners in both the cases are acquitted. The fines, if paid, will be refunded.