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State of Maharashtra Vs. Dr. R. B. Chowdhary & Ors [1967] INSC 116 (19 April 1967)

19/04/1967 HIDAYATULLAH, M.



CITATION: 1968 AIR 110 1967 SCR (3) 708


R 1992 SC2100 (51,53) R 1992 SC2206 (9)


Press and Registration of Books Act (25 of 1967), s. 7- "Editor", who is-When presumption under the section could be drawn.


The respondents were members of the Editorial Board of a newspaper. One M, who had made a declaration under s. 5 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, that he was the editor, printer and publisher of the newspaper, was shown in the newspaper also as its editor. A complaint was filed against M and the respondents that they published at defamatory article in the newspaper. The High Court, in revision, field That the respondents should be discharged, because, M had admitted in his statement under s. 342, Cr.

P.C.. that he wrote the article and because, there was no cogent evidence against the respondents that They were the editors of the newspaper.

In appeal by the State to this Court,

HELD: (i) Though the statement of M under s. 342 Cr. P.C not evidence in favour of the respondents, there was no evidence to show that they had any concern with the publishing of the article. [710 B; 711 C] (ii) Since M alone was shown to be the editor in the declaration tinder s. 5 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, and in the newspaper it could be presumed under s. 7 that M was responsible for the selection of the material published, and his admission that he wrote the article could be taken into consideration against him. But no such presumption could be drawn against the respondents and they were rightly dischargcd. [711 B].

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal Appeal No. 11 of 1965.

Appeal by special leave from the judgment and order dated April 15, 1964 of the Bombay High Court in Criminal Revision Application No. 17 of 1964.

H. R. Khanna, S. P. Nayyar for R. N. Sachthey, for the appellant.

S. C. Agarwal for the respondent.

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Hidayatullah, J. This is an appeal against an order of t learned Single Judge of the High Court of Bombay discharging, the respondents in a criminal case in which they were made accused with one Sudhakar Gopal Madane.

The matter arises in this way. The Public Prosecutor, West Khandesh, Dhulia with the previous sanction of the State Government filed a complaint against four , persons who are members of the Editorial Board of a Maharathi Weekly named 709 "Maharashtra", under S. 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint was that in an issue of the Maharashtra dated October 30, 1959, they had published an article which tended to defame one M. A. Deshmukh, I.A.S., Collector and District Magistrate, West Khandesh in respect of his conduct in the discharge of his public functions. We need not go into the facts of that article or the gravamen of the charge of defamation. This Weekly Maharashtra is registered as a newspaper and a declaration in Form 1 under Art. 3 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 has been filed by Sudhakar Gopal Madane who has described himself in the declaration as the editor, printer and publisher of the newspaper. The particular copy of the Maharashtra in which the alleged defamatory article appeared bore the name of Madane as the editor, printer and publisher of the newspaper. It also showed on the front page the Editorial Board consisting of the three respondents and Madane the Editor. The short question which has arisen in the present matter is whether the Members of the Editorial Board other than the Editor can be prosecuted for the defamatory article.

The Additional Sessions Judge Dhulia, who is trying the case, held by an order dated October 26, 1963, that the res- pondents 2, 3 and 4 could be charged with the Editor because they were Members of the Editorial Board. He held that there was no evidence so far adduced by the prosecution to establish that they were the Editors, Printers and Publishers of the Weekly yet in view of the admissions of the respondents that they were Members of the Editorial Board there was a prima facie case proved against them that they were makers of the impugned article. The learned Additional Sessions Judge further said that the prosecution would have to lead satisfactory and cogent evidence to prove and establish that respondents 2, 3 and 4 were Editors, Printers and Publishers. The present respondents 2, 3 and 4 thereupon filed an application for revision before the High Court and the impugned order came to be made on their application. It was held by the learned Single Judge that the statement of the editor Madane made under S. 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure clearly showed in unequivocal terms that the alleged defamatory article had been written by him. The newspaper according to the learned Single Judge also showed at the bottom of the last page the name of Madane as the Editor. Since there was no other cogent evidence against the present respondents, the learned Single Judge held that there was no good round for framing a charge against the present respondents and they ought to be discharged. He made an order in that behalf.

The State of Maharashtra which appeals by special leave, contends that the learned Single Judge of the High Court was wrong in treating the statement under S. 342 of the Code of 710 Criminal Procedure of Madane as accused No. 1 as evidence in the case tending to exonerate the present respondents. The State also urges in addition that a presumption under S. 7 of the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867 can be raised against the Editorial Board and they can therefore be held responsible for the defamatory article. We shall deal with these two questions.

The first argument is correct. No doubt under the Code of Criminal Procedure the statement of an accused may be taken into consideration in an' inquiry or trial but it is not strictly evidence in the case. An accused, when he makes his statement under S. 342, does not depose as a witness because no oath is administered to him, when he is examined under that section. The recent amendment of the Code, however enables an accused to give evidence on his own behalf under S. 342-A and this is only when an accused offers in writing to give evidence on his own behalf that his statement can be read as evidence proper.

However, the matter is not to be decided on whether the statement of Madane could be read as evidence or not but who was the editor of the newspaper. Section 7 of the Press and Registration of Books Act allows a presumption to be raised under certain circumstances. That section reads as follows:- "7. In any legal proceeding whatever, as well civil as criminal, the production of a copy of such declaration as is aforesaid, attested by the seal of some Court empowered by this Act to have, the custody of such declaration (or, in the case of the editor, a copy of the newspaper containing his name printed on it as that of the editor) shall be held (unless the contrary be proved) to be sufficient evidence, as against the person whose name shall be subscribed to such declaration, (or printed on such newspaper, as the case may be) that the said person was printer or publisher, or printer and publisher (according as the words of the said declaration may be) of every portion of every (newspaper) whereof the title shall correspond with the title of the (newspaper) mentioned in the declaration (or the editor of every portion of that issue of the newspaper of which a copy is produced.) The term 'editor' is defined in the Act to mean a person who controls the selection of the matter that is published in a newspaper. Where there is mentioned an editor as a person who is responsible for selection of the material s. 7 raises the presumption in respect of such a person. The name of that person has to be printed on the copy of the newspaper and in the 711 present case the name of Madane admittedly was printed as the Editor of the Maharashtra in the copy of the Maharashtra which contained the defamatory article. The declaration in Form I which has been produced before us shows the name of Madane not only as the printer and publisher but also as the editor. In our opinion the presumption will attach to Madane as having selected the material for publication in the newspaper. It may not be out of place to note that Madane admitted that he had written this article. In the circumstances not only the presumption cannot be, drawn against the others who had not declared themselves as editors of the newspaper but it is also fair to leave them out because they had no concern with the publishing of the article in question. On the whole therefore the order of discharge made by the learned Single Judge appears to be proper in the circumstances of the case and we see no reason to interfere.

The appeal fails and is dismissed.

V.P.S. Appeal dismissed.


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