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Basina Appanna vs Peta Akkanna on 14 July, 1924

Madras High Court
Basina Appanna vs Peta Akkanna on 14 July, 1924
Equivalent citations: 85 Ind Cas 361, (1924) 47 MLJ 746
Author: V Rao


Venkatasubba Rao, J.

1. The first question to be decided in this case is, is the evidence of P.W. 5 true ? The learned Sessions Judge has not said that he disbelieves his evidence. The witness was the Vakil of the accused himself in the proceeding in connection with which the defamatory words in question were said to have been used. No ground has been shown for rejecting his evidence. If his evidence is believed, is there sufficient material on which a conviction for defamation can stand ? P.W. 5 advised the accused to compromise the Civil Suit between P.W. 1 and the accused. Thereupon he replied : ” There are other reasons for the dispute. I shall disclose them in private. ” Then one Ramanujayya, who was listening to the conversation, said, ” There is nothing else. It appears that there is intimacy between P.W. i’s wife and the accused and hence the accused says that P.W. 1 has been trying to trouble the accused. ” And P.W. 5 proceeds to say :–I warned the accused that he should not give vent to such language since it is defamatory and he would be legally liable. The accused replied that he would not be faulty by exposing P.W. 1 when he was trying to bring loss to his credit. Then I went away. ” It is argued on behalf of the accused that the words complained of were not actually uttered by him. This contention, though literally true, does not avail the accused at all. By his conduct and by a few words which he did speak he undoubtedly intended to give and gave the impression that he adopted as his own the words reported to P.W. 5. I am not in the least prepared to hold that merely because the accused did not himself utter the words complained of he can. escape liability for defamation. The Explanation 3, for instance, to Section 499, Indian Penal Code, by way of analogy throws some light upon the question in controversy:–“An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation.” In this case by assenting by conduct and suggestion to what he himself was reported to have said the accused in effect uttered the words imputed to him. I must disagree with the Sessions Judge and hold that the offence of defamation has been made out.

2. It was next argued that the person defamed was the complainant’s wife and that the complainant had no right to initiate the prosecution. Brahmanna v. Ramakrishnama (1894) ILR 18 M 350 : 5 MLJ 89 was relied on in support of this proposition. This case, however, related to a civil action and it was held that the injury caused to the husband was remote and not immediate and that although imputation of unchastity on the part of plaintiff’s wife caused him pain of mind, that did not give him a right to claim damages. But in the present instance we are not concerned with the civil rights of the parties and the authorities bearing on this subject clearly establish that where a married woman is defamed by imputation of unchastity, her husband is a person aggrieved under Section 198 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In other words, the combined effect of Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code is, that the husband of the woman to whom unchastity is imputed has the right to prefer a complaint of defamation. See Chellam Naidu v. Ramaswami (1891) ILR 14 M 379 : 1 MLJ 242, Chotalal Lallubhai v. Nathabhai Bechar (1900) ILR 25 B 151 and Anantha Goundan v. King-Emperor (1904) 15 MLJ 224.

3. I am acting in revision and as I cannot convert the finding of acquittal into one of conviction, all that remains to be done is, to send the case back to the present Sessions Judge to re-hear the appeal and dispose of it according to law in the light of the observations I have made.

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