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Sankamma Vs. Govinda Chetty - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1925Mad246; 85Ind.Cas.44
AppellantSankamma
RespondentGovinda Chetty
Excerpt:
.....at all, that privilege has as the law says, been exceeded, by express malice, on the part of the accused; the accused began to justify his letter, by trying to prove that his allegations were true ;but for one reason or another ho abandoned that cours3 and sought refuge, no doubt on good advice in exception 9, which is sometimes referred to in the english books, as matters affecting the common interest of both the complainant and the accused and hence giving rise to a qualified privilege there are several points to notice about the present petition. it is pointed out that in a deposition given by her husband in 1996, he said that she bad obtained maintenance against him and had put him in jail, because he failed to carry out the order of the court, but be also deposed that that took..........; nor can i say that improper motives were unnecessarily imputed, or anything of that sort, to the widow. i think that it was to the accused's interests to get his case oa paper, at the earliest possible opportunity, in order that when the litigation, as to the will came along, it should not be said, that he set up these allegations, against the character of the widow at the last minute. i think therefore that he was within his rights, in causing this letter to be written. i should have added, where i was discussing the devolution to the widow, of the property of the deceased man, that, of course, if the daughter was illegitimate, she would also be debarred from the inheritance. for these reasons, i think that on the whole, the learned magistrate was right, and the criminal revision case.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Odgers, J.

1. This is a revision against the acquittal of one Govinda Chetty against whom one Sankamma made a complaint under Section 500, Indian Penal Code, ibhe complained that Govinda Chetty had defamed her, by certain allegations made in a letter written by Mr. T.S. Raja gopala Aiyar, High Court Vakil on his instructions on 30th November, 1922. It is not necessary to set out the letter at length ; but the allegations of defamation shortly are; (1) that she was living an adulterous life ; (2) that she was discarded by her deceased husband owing to her conduct ; (3) that her daughter was not the daughter of her husband ; and (4) that she had never lived with the deceased for about 25 years. The learned Magistrate came to the conclusion, on hearing the evidence, that the matter fell within exception 9 to Section 499, Indian Penal Code and discharged the accused.

2. I have heard the criminal revision case and it has been strongly urged before me that the exception does not apply in that the expressions contained in the letter, which I have referred to, are altogether too strong for the occasion ; that is to say fehab if there is any qualified privilege attached to the letter at all, that privilege has as the law says, been exceeded, by express malice, on the part of the accused; and the question I have got to decide is whether that is so or not. The accused began to justify his letter, by trying to prove that his allegations were true ; but for one reason or another ho abandoned that cours3 and sought refuge, no doubt on good advice in exception 9, which is sometimes referred to in the English books, as matters affecting the common interest of both the complainant and the accused and hence giving rise to a qualified privilege There are several points to notice about the present petition. The first is that the alleged defamatory letter was written in reply to a letter of Mr. V. Visvanathe Sastri, High Court Vakil, on behalf of (he widow Sankamma. There is no doubt that at the date of the deceased Sankaralingam Chetty's death, she was not living with him and I am disposed to think that she had not been living with him, for a very considerable time. It is pointed out that in a deposition given by her husband in 1996, he said that she bad obtained maintenance against him and had put him in jail, because he failed to carry out the order of the Court, But be also deposed that that took place 8 or 10 years before 1906 and that after that they had lived happily. Of course, 1906 is a long time ago and it is perfectly certain that not only was the widow not living with her husband, at the time of. his death, but she did not attend the karumantherarn ceremony, to which the learned Magistrate refers, as being highly significant of the terms, on which the deceased and his wife were. There is evidence that the neighbours of the deceased the ught or had reason to believe that she had loft him some time ago. In 1917, by Exhibit I, the deceased executed what he calls a deed of settlement in favour of the accused who is his brother's son. The deceased therein recites that he is 70 years old, that he has neither female issue nor male issue and.-none to protect him. The letter in question containing the defamatory statement was written in reply, stated, to another letter, which undoubtedly was strong in its language. It charges the brother's sons, among whom is the accused with being guilty of the theft and criminal breach of trust, with regard to the properties left by the deceased. The letter concludes, by saying that the widow will be under the painful necessity of filing civil and criminal proceedings against him, in respect of the articles, bonds and cash without any further notice whatsoever. That provoked the defamatory letter referred to, and the question is whether the expressions in that lottor are, in fact, under the circumstances of the ease, justified or not. It will he noticed that the deceased having died, without any issue, his widow would be his heir, unless the right to succession could be displaced, for instance by establishing want of chastity, &c.; This was very important, from the point of view of the brother's son, who was propounding the Will, Exhibit I, loft by the deceased, in his favour by the deceased, by which he was constituted his heir, be that, as pointed out by Mr. Thanika-chalam Chetty for the accused, I think the accused had a direct interest, in putting forward these allegations against 'the widow, when she directly raised the allegation in the letter of her Vakil that she was entitled to all the properties of the deceased, as being his Widow. I must not for a moment be thought to be approving of the letters passing between the lawyers couched in this kind of language. I very strongly deprecate it. Mr. Venkatrayaliah, with great frankness, most properly admitted that the learned Vakil, who wrote the letter under discussion, could in no way be hold personally responsible, so that the case does not fall, under the class of eases, which you get in the English law, where a solicitor writes a letter in terms not necessary to protect the client's interest and has sometimes been held personally responsible, for the defamatory words, used in it. In this case, it is assumed for all purposes, that the actual expressions used wore all autherized by the client. Assuming, as I think one must, that this was a matter of common interest, between the complainant and the accused, relating to the title to property, left by the deceased, the question is can one, under the circumstances of this case, impute, what we call malice or want of bond fides or the presence of any improper motive to the accused, when he gave instructions to write the letter under discussion? It is admitted that there is no previous ill-feeling between these people. I am not persuaded, on the evidence, that the accused knew that his allegations were untrue. In fact, as far as I cm judge, from tlie evidence, putting one-self in the position of a man, writing at that time. I am inclined to think that he really believed that what he caused to bewrittan was true in all material particulars. I therefore cannot say that in the language of the cases, the terms employed by the accused were much too violent for the occasion and circumstances, or utterly disproportionate to tin factg ; nor can I say that improper motives were unnecessarily imputed, or anything of that sort, to the widow. I think that it was to the accused's interests to get his case oa paper, at the earliest possible opportunity, in order that when the litigation, as to the Will came along, it should not be said, that he set up these allegations, against the character of the widow at the last minute. I think therefore that he was within his rights, in causing this letter to be written. I should have added, where I was discussing the devolution to the widow, of the property of the deceased man, that, of course, if the daughter was illegitimate, she would also be debarred from the inheritance. For these reasons, I think that on the whole, the learned Magistrate was right, and the criminal revision case must be dismissed.


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