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APPUHAMI et al. v. KIRI HAM I et al.
D. G.y Ktgalla, 474.
Slander—Action by parent and daughter for dander of daughter—Right ofparent to rue—Proof of special damage.
A father cannot sue for damages for slander of bis daughter, althoughhe may have felt pained by such slander.
To say of a Sinhalese woman of the Yellala caste, in the presence andhearing of many persons assembled at a dinner party, that she had ranaway with a Wahnmpnra man is actionable as slander.
Proof of special damage is not necessary in Ceylon to sustain anaction for slander.
r MHE first plaintiff was the father of the second. They allegedthat they were Kandyan Sinhalese of the Yellala caste, thatthe Becond plaintiff was married ont in diga to one Kiri Banda,
and that “at a dinner at Pinnewela, at the honse of one
“ Pnnchirala, on the 18th day of January, 1894, at which several“ people were present, the defendants falsely and mali-
“ciously spoke, said, and published to the said Pnnchirala and“ certain other persons there present at the aforesaid dinner,“ the words following ; that is to say, ‘ Your (meaning the first“ plaintiff) daughter (meaning the second plaintiff) ran away with“a Wahumpura man,’ meaning thereby that the first plaintiff“ was degraded and disgraced by the act of the second plaintiff,“ and that he was not a fit person to associate with; and also“ meaning that the second plaintiff was guilty of acts of incon-“ tinence and adultery and immorality, and had disgraced herself“ with a low-caste man.”
They further alleged that the said words were false andmalicious, and that, “in consequence of these words, the’first“plaintiff has been disgraced and degraded and was not allowed“ to sit down at the dinner aforesaid or to associate with the other“ gnests ; and the second plaintiff has been disgraced in character“ and reputation, and has been turned out of her house by her“ husband, the aforesaid Kiri Banda; and by reason of the premises,“ the plaintiffs have suffered loss and damage to the extent of“ Rs. 500.”
The defendants took exception to the form of the plaint andits sufficiency in law, and pleaded, inter alia, that the words inquestion were spoken without malice, and in the bond fide beliefthat they were true and under such circumstances as made them aprivileged communication ; that is so say, that at a private dinner,being requested by his host to sit at the same table with the firstplaintiff, the first- defendant declined to do so, and being asked his
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reason, he stated that “ it was because first plaintiff’s daughter had“ ran away with a Wahumpura man, a man of low caste, and“ therefore his host placed first plaintiff and first defendant at“separate tables.” The second defendant denied having everspoken the words complained of.
The District Judge, after hearing the case both on the law andmerits, dismissed plaintiff’s action, on the ground that they hadnot proved that they suffered any damage in consequence of thewords need.
Domhoi’st, for appellants.
De Saram, for defendants respondents.
Cur. adv’ vult.
14th February, 1895. Lawbib, A.C.J.—
The first plaintiff has not alleged or proved special damage.He is not entitled to sue for words defamatory of his daughter,although he may have felt pained and distressed. This rule hasbeen applied in India. There is a case reported in 1 Madras, p. 383,where it was held that a brother cannot sue for slander of hissister. In the case before us the father and daughter join in theaction, which, so far as the father is concerned, should, I think,be dismissed with costs.
I agree that it is not proved that the second defendant slanderedthe second plaintiff. He was present at the wedding party, andheard and probably sympathized with his brother, but it was anexaggeration to assert that he too repeated the words complainedof. The action as against him must be dismissed with costs.
With regard to the action by the second plaintiff against thefirst defendant, the case is, I think, weak. From early times theSinhalese have been very particular as to those who are invitedto weddings. It is regarded as an affront to be omitted, and as anequal affront to be invited to meet inferior people.
Marshall, p. 412, gives two instances where refusals to sit downat a marriage feast with persons of doubtful reputation wereheld to give a cause of action against the too fastidious guest, andtherefore the objection stated to this young lady’s presence onthe particular occasion was not unusual, though of course I donot put it, as the defendant puts it, that the occasion was.
The plaintiff alleged special damage, that she had been turnedout of her house by her hnsband, but that was disproved at thetrial. She and her husband had ceased to live together beforethis wedding.
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The rather harsh rale of English law, which dehies damages toa woman whose character has been assailed, unless she can provespecial damages, does not obtain in this Colony, and for thiBslander the plaintiff is entitled to damages. If the defendant hadexpressed his regret and had tendered five rupees as damages, Iwould have thought that he had done enough, but he hasaggravated the cause of action by repeating the defamation in theanswer, and I think he has made himself liable in at least Rs. 50damages and the costs to which the second plaintiff has been put.
This is an action by a father and his daughter to recoverdamages against two defendants for slander.
I think the father was improperly joined.
The District Judge has found that the second defendant didnot utter the words complained of, and has disallowed the actionagainst him. We see no reason to disturb that part of the judg-ment, which regards a mere question of fact.
The first defendant admits* that, at a private dinner party, heexcused himself from sitting down at the same table with the firstplaintiff, for the reason that the latter’s daughter had run awaywith a Wahumpura man of low caste.
This statement was made in the presence and hearing of a largenumber of people assembled for the entertainment, and in thepresence of the plaintiffs.
The second plaintiff was at the time the reputed wife in diga ofa person of her own caste—Vellala caste.
It cannot be doubted that this statement was calculated toreflect upon the moral character of the second plaintiff and injureher in the estimation of society.
What is contumelious in itself, as such language is, presumesthe animus et affectus injuriandi, which is an element of slander.
The District Judge, however, dismissed the action because theplaintiffs had adduced no evidence to show that either of themhad suffered the smallest damage in consequence of this con-tumely.
The Roman-Dutch law requires no proof of special damage tosustain an action for slander.
If contumely is published deliberately and with intention tooffend another, the speaker is liable to be sued for amends.
There are various degrees of contumely, depending on the’person of whom, the place where, and the occasion od which, thecontumelious language is used, to say nothing of the nature of thelanguage uttered.
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There was no defence by the first defendant, unless the frivolousplea of a privileged occasion can be regarded as such. He doesnot pretend that he spoke in play, Or in jest, and under theinfluence of anger provoked by the person addressed, or underthe influence of intoxication. He does not even apologize forwhat he said. He avers that he repeated what had been villagetalk, and that he believed it to be true.
This is bnt an aggravation of his offence.
I would set aside the judgment against the first defendant andadjudge him to pay a sum of Rs. 50 with costs.
APPUHAMI et al., KIRIHAMI et al
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