A. G. A., Mullaittivu v. Selvadurai.
1940Present: Howard C J.
A. G. A., MULLAITTIVU v. SELVADURAI.
274—M. C. Mullaittivu, 16,130.
False information—Given to public servant—Elements of offence—Penal Code,
s. 180 (Cap. 15).
To constitute the offence of giving false information to a public servant,punishable under section 180 of the Penal Code, there must be proofthat the accused knew the information to be false or believed it to befalse.
It is not sufficient to prove that he had reason to believe the informationto be false or that he did not believe it to be true.
The accused cannot be convicted if he proves that he had reasonablegrounds for believing the information to be true.
^^PPEAL from a conviction by the Magistrate of Mullaittivu.
S. Nadesan for the accused, appellant.
H. T. Gunasekera, C.C., for the complainant, respondent.
Cur. adv. vult.
1 IS N. L: R. 499.
HOWARD C.J.—A. G. A., Mullaittitm v. 2>elvadurai.
July 10, 1940. Howard C.J.—
The conviction in this case cannot be maintained. To constitute theoffence punishable under section 180 of the .Penal Code it is necessarythat the information given should be information which the accusedperson knows or believes to be false. It is not sufficient that he hadreason to believe it to be false or that he did not believe it to be true.There must have been positive knowledge or belief that it was false.In Murad v. Empress1 Plowden V. stated els follows : —
“ It not enough to find that he has acted in bad faith, that is withoutdue care or inquiry, or that he has acted maliciously or that hehad not sufficient reason to believe or did not believe the chsirgeto be true. The actual falsity of the charge, recklessness inacting upon information without testing it or scrutinizing itssources—actual malice towards the persons charged—they arerelevant evidence more or less cogent, but the ultimate con-clusion must be in order to satisfy the definition of the offencethat the accused knew that there was no just or lawful ground. for proceeding. Tt may be difficult to prove this knowledgebut, however difficult it may be, it must be proved and unless -it is proved the informer must be acquitted. ” '
The accused cannot be convicted if he shows that he had reasonablegrounds for believing the information to be true. He is not boundto show that it was in fact true.
The prosecution have not proved that the accused knew or believedthe information which he gave to be false. In fact the evidence indicatesthat he had real grounds for thinking that it was true. The first falsestatement charged against the accused is that he stated that the DistrictMudaliyar, Vavuniya South, came to Rasenthirankulam on the 11thinstant and included in the list for relief work all people who had largequantities of paddy. The Assistant Government Agent in his evidencestated that work had been given to S. Velupillai although he had 18 bagsof paddy and to S. Kaddaiyar who had 4 or 5 bags of paddy. Alsothat some were given relief work in spite of their having seed paddy.The Udaiyar—Karthigesu Nagamany—in his evidence also admits thatthere was paddy in some of the houses where relief was given. In viewof this evidence it is clear that the fcilsity of the statement has not beenestablished. There may have been some exaggeration, but on the otherhand it would appear that the accused had reasonable grounds forthinking that it was true.
The second false statement alleged is that the accused stated in hispetition that the District Mudaliyar had given relief work to those whocan live comfortably even if Government does not give one cent. If thepetition is scrutinized it is clear that this was not a charge made by theaccused against the Mudaliyar in his petition. The passage in thepetition on which this charge against the accused is based is merely arepetition by the latter of what he said to the Mudaliyar. Moreover, thefalsity of the accused’s statement has not been established.
> 29 P: R. 1894 Cr.
HOWARD CJ.—A. G. A., Mullaititrj. v. SelvaduraL
The third false statement alleged is that the District Mudaliyar hasincluded for relief work 2 from a family of 4, 2 from a family of 3, and 3from a family of 7. The evidence of Karthigesu Nagamany indicatesthat this statement was approximately correct. Knowledge of itsfalsity has moreover not been brought home to the accused.
The fourth false statement alleged is set out in the charge as follows : —
•• (4) For all these the District Mudaliyar did not act accordingto the Regulations.”
The Magistrate states that (4) is a general summing up of (1), (2), and (3).If (1). (2), and (3) are accepted against the accused, suffice it to say that
hag to be accepted against him. The accused’s knowledge of thefalsity of (1), (2), and (3) has not been established. In these circumstances
stands in the same category.
In allowing this appeal I feel it incumbent on me to say something withregard to the judgment and the whole atmosphere pervading the trialof frhis case. The learned Magistrate seems to have regarded the weightto be attached to the evidence of various witnesses from an administrativerather than from a judicial point of view. As an instance of this attitude .he accepts the evidence of the Udaiyar of Naducheddikulam apparentlyon the grounds that the latter could count three generations of hisancestors as having held influential and trusted offices in Government,that he holds a medal for good work and has no censures in his recordof service. The evidence for the defence is rejected because it is givenby witnesses taken at random from the village where the incidentsconnected with June 11, 1939, are said to have taken place. This is notthe method that a Judicial Officer should employ to test the credibilitycf witnesses.
The Magistrate’s strictures on a statement in the accused’s petitionbegging the Assistant Government Agent to do away with the injusticeof the subordinate headman and grant them his help can only be de-scribed as lamentable. These strictures are couched in flowery languagein which are drawn inferences unwarranted and unjustifiable. It isludicrous for the Magistrate to infer from the words “ do away with theinjustice ” a request for the Assistant Government Agent to use his lawfulpower to dismiss the acting Mudaliyar or if that is not possible torecommend him for dismissal or censure or fine him.
The Magistrate in addition to misdirecting himself both on the lawand flip evidence has allowed evidence of previous charges against theaccused to be given in evidence. It does even appear that convictionsin these cases were recorded against, the accused. Not content' with this,the Magistrate allowed evidence to be tendered of previous petitionssent by the accused but not referring to the subject-matter of the petitionwhich formed the subject of the charge in this case. In spite of objectionsby Counsel for the accused this evidence was admitted under section 146of the Evidence Ordinance. Needless to say this section has no relevancein the matter.
The record of the case offers a good example of how a Judicial inquiryshould not be conducted-
466Fernando «. Coomarastcamy.
I would also refer to the concluding paragraph of Shaw J.'s judgment inGoonetilleke v. Elisa The present case is' also one in which, in myopinion, the provisions of section 180 of the Penal Code should not havebeen exercised.
The appeal is. allowed and the conviction set aside.*
A. G. A., MULLAITTIVU v. SELVADURAI