1. The facts giving rise to this appeal may be stated briefly. The plaintiffs are the owners of a joint business in Bogra town. Defendant 1 is the Sri Oudh Rice and Oil Mills, and the other defendants are said to be the owners of the Mills. The Mills manufacture mustard oil. The plaintiffs were the agents of the Mills for the sale of mustard oil. The plaintiffs ordered 400 tins of mustard oil from the mills for supplying to one Bholaram Jesraj. When the oil arrived at Bogra, the plaintiffs took delivery. Immediately thereafter the Sanitary Inspector of the local Municipality, seized the oil and sent samples to the Chemical Examiner for report. Thereafter Laksmi Narayan Agarwala. plaintiff 1, was prosecuted on a charge of being in possession of adulterated mustard oil, and was convicted and sentenced to undergo 6 weeks imprisonment and to pay a fine. On appeal the conviction was upheld but the sentence was reduced to a fine of Rs. 100 only.
2. Plaintiffs sued the defendants for damages, claiming Rs. 1302-9-9 on account of the costs incurred in the criminal case, Rs. 197-6-3 for mental suffering due to the criminal case, and Rs. 1500 for loss in business and reputation.
3. Defendant 2, Ram Kumar Agarwala, alone defended the suit claiming to be the sole proprietor of the Sri Oudh Rice and Oil Mills. He denied that the oil for possession of which plaintiff 1 was convicted, was supplied by him; he denied that he had ever guaranteed to supply pure oil, or that the plaintiffs had ordered nadulterated oil; and he disputed the amount claimed as compensation.
4. The learned Subordinate Judge found that defendants 2 to 6 were joint proprietors of the Sri Oudh Rice and Oil Mills and that the plaintiffs were agents of the Mills for the sale of Oudh Brand Mustard Oil. He found further that plaintiffs ordered unadulterated oil from the Mills for supply to Bholaram Jesraj, and that the oil for possession of which plaintiff 1 was convicted, was supplied by the defendant Mills. He accordingly held the defendants liable under the provisions of Sections 73, 222 and 225, Contract Act.
5. The learned Subordinate Judge held that the plaintiffs were entitled to recover Rs. 1149-8-0 on account of expenses incurred in the criminal case, and Rs. 50 as compensation for mental suffering, but were not entitled to any compensation for the alleged loss of business and reputation. The suit was accordingly decreed in part with proportionate costs.
6. Defendant, 2 Ram Kumar Agarwala, appealed and the appeal was heard by the District Judge of Pabna and Bogra at Bogra. The learned Judge held that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the oil was adulterated, and that consequently no relief could be granted under Section 76, Contract Act. On the other hand, the learned Judge held that plaintiffs were entitled to compensation under the provisions of Section 222, Contract Act. The learned Judge reduced the amount of compensation. Defendant 2 has appealed against the appellate decision of the District Judge; and the plaintiffs have filed a cross appeal.
7. I find it difficult to agree with the learned District Judge that plaintiffs were entitled to compensation under Section 222, Contract Act. That section reads:
The employer of an agent is bound to indemnify him against the consequences of all lawful acts done by such agent in exercise of the authority conferred upon him.
Now the essential condition enabling the agent to claim compensation under this section is that his act shall be lawful. It is not sufficient that his acts are innocent and performed in good faith. In the present case the acts of the agent which resulted in loss to him, were the acts of importing adulterated mustard oil, and possessing adulterated mustard oil. These acts are unlawful, and the person who performs them is liable to punishment even though he performs them in all innocence. In this view, it cannot be said that loss was caused to the agent in the present case on account of his lawful acts.
8. The respondents have argued that the learned District Judge was wrong in holding that there was no sufficient evidence to prove that the oil was adulterated. It appears that in the Court of first instance, the plaintiffs relied very largely on the report of the Chemical Examiner and the judgments in the criminal Courts for proof that the mustard oil was adulterated. The learned District Judge held that there is no provision corresponding to Section 510, Criminal P.C., under which the report of a Chemical Examiner can be admitted in evidence in a civil Court without formal proof of its contents, and he held further that the judgments of the criminal Courts were not evidence of the fact that the oil was adulterated. There would be great force in these arguments if the defendants had denied that the oil supplied was adulterated. The learned Judge also overlooked the facts that the Chemical Examiner's report was admitted without objection and accepted by both parties as good evidence in the Court of first instance. If the learned Judge was not satisfied that this was admissible in evidence he ought, in my opinion, to have allowed the plaintiffs an opportunity of giving formal proof of its contents. However, in view of the fact that there was really no dispute in the Court of first instance regarding the fact of adulteration, I hold that there was sufficient evidence of the same and the learned Judge ought to have accepted it as sufficient.
9. In my view therefore the plaintiffs were entitled to succeed under Section 73, Contract Act.
10. I see no reason to differ from the Court of appeal below regarding the amount of compensation, I therefore order that the appeal and the cross-objection be both dismissed. The appellant will pay the costs of this appeal to the contesting respondents. No order is made as to costs in the cross-objection.