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D.P. CHOUDHARY AND ORS. V.

KUMARI MANJULATA
Facts
Kumari Manjulata is the daughter of Mohan Singh. She was aged about 17 years and
was living with her parents and brother. They are all educated and were regarded very
high because of it. Durga Prasad was the principal Editor of Dainik Navjyoti and the
Managing Editor and Publisher of the same worked under him. They are, responsible
for publication of false and defamatory news in the daily newspaper. On 18-12-77,
Dainik Navjyoti published a news regarding Manjulata with unfair comments and false
imputations. The news item was basically untrue and was published negligently with
utter irresponsibility and maliciously which created hatred against Manjulata and she
was ridiculed. The news item was published in order to dishonour Manjulata and her
family members. By publication of this news item Manjulata was defamed. It created
problems for arranging for her marriage. She was shocked and was ridiculed by
persons who knew her. She suffered from inferiority complex because of the publication
of this news. Parents of Manjulata also suffered disrespect in the society as the news
item was defamatory. A notice was given to the Editor but was unheeded. A sum of Rs.
10,100/- was claimed as damages along with 12% interest. The Newspaper authorities
submitted their written statement alleging that they do not know the plaintiff personally
and the news was collected by its reporter. The news item was correct and was
collected from a reliable source. There was no intention to defame of harass the
plaintiff. Notice was denied. It was further averred in the written statement that at the
time of presentation of the suit, Manjulata was major. She did not exercise her option;
therefore, the suit was not maintainable. The appellant submitted that the news item is
based on correct facts and it is not false. He submitted that the correspondent who is
himself an advocate had not only received the information from the police station but
had verified from the mother of the plaintiff. He submitted that there was no mala fide on
the part of the newspaper or the correspondent. He sent the report to the newspaper
with the intention that in case the persons knowing Manjulata would read the news, they
would send her back to her parents. From the evidence on record it is proved that the
news was not verified from the mother of Manjulata as was alleged by him. Also, he was
never asked by anyone of the family members of Manjulata to do so. The law as
regards defamation is that if defamatory words are published, they are presumed to be
false and the burden to prove that they are not so is upon the defendant. So from the
evidence produced on behalf of the defendant it is not so proved.

Judgment
Earlier in this case, the Additional District Judge he decreed the suit of defamation
awarding Rs. 10,000/- as damages to the respondent. The following judgment is the
result of a civil appeal against the Additional District judges decree. From the
statements of Manjulata, her mother and other witnesses it was borne out that the news
item published in the newspaper was false. Manjulata was cross-examined at length
and an attempt had been made to suggest in the cross-examination that the news item
did not relate to her but during the arguments no such attempt was made before the
High Court Judge or before the lower Court. The news was definitely related to
Manjulata, plaintiff respondent. Learned counsel for the appellant rightly did not touch
this point. If a false news item is published in a Newspaper, whosoever reads it he has
his own reservations about person about whom a false report is published. The object of
law of defamation is to protect an individuals interest in his reputation. It is no defence
in a suit for defamation that the defendant did not intend to injure the plaintiffs
reputation, if, in fact, it has been injured. Even if the defendant bonafidely believed in
the truth of the words published, he will still be liable unless the defence of privilege is
raised.It is proved from the evidence of Manjulata and her witnesses that her reputation
has lowered down, marriage proposals were dropped, she underwent mental tensions
and her character was assassinated. The evidence led by plaintiff and her witnesses
was sufficient to lower down the prestige of Manjulata. It has been stated on behalf of
the appellant that there was no malice against the plaintiff respondent. Needless to say
that in such cases a man may be liable although he had not a particle of malice against
the person defamed. The intention or motive with which the words were employed is, as
a rule, immaterial.

The court below was right in deciding the case in favour of Manjulata. The appeal was
dismissed.
Youssoupoff v. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Picture LTD. (1934)
Facts:
In the course of MGMs film a lady who had relations of affection with the person
represented as the murderer was represented as having also had relations, which
might be either relations of seduction or relations of rape, with the man Rasputin, a
man of the worst possible character. When the film was produced in this country
the plaintiff alleged that reasonable people would understand that she was the
woman who was represented as having had these illicit relations. The plaintiff is a
member of the Russian Royal House, Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia, and
she was married after the incidents in question to a man who undoubtedly was one
of the persons concerned in the killing of Rasputin. She issued a writ for libel
against the English company. The English company declined to stop presenting the
film. The action for libel proceeded.
Fact in Issue:
There may arise a question that
Is it a form of defamation or not?
Reasoning:
A publications is defamatory if:
(1) A reasonable 3rd person .
(2) would believe the statement to be defamatory .
(3) to another identifiable person.
Judgment:
This case is really about not disturbing a jury finding with regards to defamation. If
it is inconceivable that a jury could find against Defendant, the Judge has the
opportunity to not present that question; where the Judge elects to submit that
question however, it is improper to interfere with that. Here (1) The jury found that
the person portrayed was the Princess, and (2) that the portrayal was defamatory,
and (3) The Court cannot properly interfere with a jury award.
Cassidy v. Daily Mirror Newspapers Ltd (1929)
Fact:
The plaintiff Mrs. Cassidy was known and was generally wife of Mr. Cassidy who
was also known as Michael Corrigan an owner of race house. Though the plaintiff
and her husband did not live together he usually visited her in the shop where she
was employed and stayed with her in flat. At a house race meeting Mr. Cassidy
passed in the company with a lady to a photographer and told him that he was
engaged to marry the lady and he might announce it. Mr. M Corrigan the race
house owner and Mrs. X whose engagement has been announced The newspaper
publish the same inscription with the photograph.
Plaintiff files a suit against defendant for remedy.
Fact in Issues:
Whether the act of defendant is liable for innuendo or not?
Decision:
The court of appeal held that defendant were liable and plaintiff must entitle to get
remedy.
Reasoning:
The publication mean that Mrs. Cassidy an immoral woman who co-habited with
Mr. Cassidy without being married to him.
So, it is innuendo or prima facie defamation and defendant was liable for
defamation.
Tolley v. J.S. Fry and Sons Ltd (1929)
Fact:
The plaintiff was an amateur golfer. The defendant, without the plaintiffs
knowledge or consent, published adverts showing the plaintiff and his caddy each
with bars of the defendants chocolate protruding from their back pockets. The
plaintiff said that this carried an implied defamatory message that he had been paid
for the advertisement, and had prostituted his reputation as an amateur golf
player. Evidence showed that the defendant had considered this result before
issuing the adverts, and that people had made just that inference. The plaintiff
might have been barred from several golf clubs.
Fact in Issues:
Whether the act of Defendant falls within the meaning of innuendo or not?
Decision:
The court was held that the defendant liable for innuendo and plaintiff must entitle
to have remedy.
Reasoning:
Because of the tales advertisement the plaintiff may loss his membership from golf
club. It happen the reputation of plaintiff. So, defendant was liable for innuendo.
M.C. VERGHESE v. T.J. PONNAN & ANR.
FACTS OF THE CASE

The first respondent wrote letters to his wife who is the daughter of the appellant.
The letters contained defamatory imputations concerning the appellant. The letters
were handed over to the appellant and he filed a complaint for defamation against
the first respondent. The Magistrate held that a communication between spouses of
a matter de (amatory of another did not amount to publication and that no evidence
could be given of it under s. 122 of the Evidence Act, 1872, against the first
respondent, and discharged him. The Court of Session set aside the order but the
High Court restored it. While the appeal against the order of discharge was
pending in this Court a decree of nullity of marriage was passed against the first
respondent on the ground of his impotency.

Rathi daughter of M.C. Verghese was married to T.J. Ponnan. On July 18, 1964,
July 25, 1964 and July30, 1964, Ponnan wrote from Bombayletters to Rathi who
was then residing with her parents at Trivandrum which it is claimed contained
defamatory imputations concerning Verghese. Verghese then filed a complaint in
the Court of the District Magistrate, Trivandrum, against Ponnan charging him
with offence of defamation.

ISSUE RAISED

Ponnan submitted an application raising two preliminary contentions

(1) that the letters which formed the sole basis of the complaint were inadmissible
in evidence as they were barred by law or expressly prohibited by law from
disclosure; and

(2) that uttering of a libel by a husband to his wife was not publication under the
law of India and hence cannot support a charge for defamation, and prayed for fan
order of discharge, and applied that he may be discharged.
JUDGEMENT
DISTRICT COURT

The District Magistrate held that a communication by a husband to his wife or by a


wife to her husband of a matter defamatory of another person does not amount in
law to publication, since the husband and wife are one in the eye of the law.

In so holding, he relied upon the judgment in Wennhak v. Morgan and Wife(1). He


also held that the communication was privileged, and no evidence could be given
in court in relation to that communication. He accordingly ordered that Ponnan be
discharged under s. 253 (2) Code of Criminal Procedure.[1]

In a revision application filed by Verghese before the Court of Session, the order
was set aside and further enquiry into the complaint was directed. In the view of
the learned Sessions Judge the doctrine of the common law of England that a
communication by one spouse to another of a matter defamatory of another person
does not amount to publication has no application in India, and s. 122 of the Indian
Evidence Act does not prohibit proof in the Court by the complainant of the letters
written by Ponnan to his wife.

HIGH COURT

The case was then carried to the High Court of Kerala in revision. The High Court
set aside the order of the Court of Session and restored the order of the District
Magistrate. The High Court held that from the averments made in paragraphs 9 to
11 of the complaint it was clear that the writing of defamatory matter by Ponnan to
his wife Rathi was not in law publication, and that if the letters written by Ponnan
to his wife cannot be proved in court either by herself directly or through her
father, in whose hands she had voluntarily placed them, the imputations therein fell
outside the courts cognizance and no charge under s. 500 Indian Penal Code could
be deemed to be made out.

ANALYSIS OF SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT

It was assumed throughout these proceedings that the letters are defamatory of the
complainant. Under the Indian penal Code in order that an offence of defamation
may be committed there must be making or publication of any imputation
concerning any person by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs
or by visible representations, intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to
believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person. To constitute
the offence of defamation there must therefore be making or publication of an
imputation concerning any person and the making or publication must be with
intent to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will
harm, the reputation of such person. Unless there is publication there can be no
offence of defamation committed. In England the rule appears to be well settled
that except in certain well defined matters. the husband and wife ,are regarded as
one and in an action for libel disclosure by the husband of the libel to his wife is
not publication. In Wennhaks case(1) Manisty, J., observed: the maxim and
principle acted on for centuries is still in existence viz., that as regards this Case,
husband and wife are in point of law one person.The learned Judge examined
the foundation of the rule and stated that it was, after, all, a question of public
policy or, social policy.

But the rule that husband and wife are one in the eye of law has not been adopted
in its full force under our system of law and certainly not in our criminal
jurisprudence. In Queen Empress v. Butch(2) it was held that there is no
presumption of law that the wife and husband constitute one person in India for the
purpose of the criminal law. If the wife, removing the husbands property from his
house, does so with dishonest intention, she is guilty of theft. In Abdul Khadar v.
Taib Begum(5) the Madras High Court again held that there is no presumption of
law in India that a wife and husband constitute one person for the purpose of
criminal law, and therefore the English common law doctrine of absolute privilege
cannot prevail in India.

Verghese has complained that he was defamed by the three letters which Ponnan
wrote to Rathi Ponnan, however, says that the letters addressed by him to his wife
are notexcept with his consentadmissible in evidence by virtue of s. 122 of the
Indian Evidence Act, and since the only publication pleaded is publication to his
wife and she is prohibited by law from disclosing those letters. no offence of
defamation could be made out. So stated the proposition is in our judgment, not
sustainable. Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act falls in Ch. IX which deals
with evidence of witnesses in proceeding before the court. That section provides:

No person who is or has been married shall be compelled to disclose any


communication made to him during marriage by any person to whom he is or has
been married; nor shall be permitted to disclose any such communication. unless
the person who made it, or his representative in interest, consents, except in suits
between married persons, or proceedings in which one married person is
prosecuted for any crime committed against the other.
The section consists of two branches

(1) that a married person shall not be compelled to disclose any communication
made to him during marriage by his spouse; and

(2) that the married person shall not except in two special classes of proceedings be
permitted to disclose by giving evidence in court the communication, unless the
person who made it, or his representative in interest, consents thereto.

When the letters were written by Ponnan to Rathi, they were husband and wife.
The bar to the admissibility in evidence of communications made during marriage
attaches at the time when the communication is made, and its admissibility will be
adjudged in the light of the status at the date and not the status at the date when
evidence is sought to be given in court.

Hence Appeal Allowed.

MORGAN V ODHAMS PRESS LTD.

Facts
A newspaper article in The Sun (then owned by Odhams Press[1]) reported on the
kidnapping of a young woman by a dog-doping gang. The woman had been
staying at the home of Mr. Morgan, a journalist,[2] at the time of her kidnap.
Morgan claimed that even though the article did not mention him in any way, it
implied to those who knew that the woman was staying with him that he was a
member of the gang.
JUDGEMENT
Lord Morris of Borth-y-gest ruled that even though the plaintiff was never referred
to by name, nor was he even directly implicated upon strict reading of the
defamatory article, he was still sufficiently identified. This was because a
substantial group of people who knew the plaintiff understood that it referred to
him. Lord Morris held that this was sufficient, even though no-one called to give
evidence in fact believed the allegations to be true.

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