GRATIAEN J.—Allots v. Ratnayake
1953Present : Swan J.
H. NANDTJWA, Appellant, and R. NAKDAWATHIE,Respondent
S. C. 76—M. C. Panwila, 7,121
Maintenance Ordinance, s. 6—Application on behalf of illegitimate child—EvidenceSilence may amount to admission—Corroboration.
Tn an application for the maintenance of an illegitimate child, evidence of thefailure of the putative father to refute allegations made against him by a head-man on an occasion which demanded a denial or a protest may amount tocorroboration.
SWAPS' J.—JVandutra v. Xondatra'hi *
Appeal from a judgment of the Magistrate’s Court, Panwila.
K.C. de Silva, with Ananda d-e Silva, for the defendant appellant.
K.Sivasubramaniam, with D. S. Nethsinha, for the applicantrespondent.
Cur. adv. vult.
March 17, 1953. Swan J.—
This appeal raises an interesting point, to wit, whether silence canamount to an admission.
The appellant was sued by the respondent for maintenance for anillegitimate child whose paternity he denied. The learned Magistrateaccepted the respondent’s evidence and held that there was sufficientcorroboration. The corroboration relied upon by the learned Magistratewas based on the following facts. The respondent had made a complaint tothe headman that she was pregnant and that the appellant was responsi-ble for her condition. As that complaint was made after sexual intimacyhad ceased the learned Magistrate, following the judgment of this Courtin Ponnammah v. Seenithamby held that it did not furnish the corro-boration required by Section 6 of the Maintenance Ordinance. But theheadman also said that he met the appellant two days later and questionedhim. I think I should give in detail the headman’s evidence regarding thisinterview:—
“ I met the respondent and questioned him. I told him that theappellant had complained about him. I asked him to continue to main-tain her if he had done so earlier. I believed her story and told him thatordinarily a woman would not make such a complaint unless it was true.The respondent did not protest that it was false.”
The learned Magistrate took the view that this amounted to anadmission on the appellant’s part that he was the father of the child in therespondent’s womb. Learned Counsel for the appellant contends that thatinference is not reasonable or justifiable in law. Undoubtedly silence doesnot amount to an admission in every case. But there-areoccasions when thefailure to deny an accusation or to repudiates charge can he construedto mean a tacit admission of guilt. In the case of Weideman v. Walpole 2Bowen L.J. said, “ silence is not evidence of an admission unless there arecircumstances which render it more reasonably probable that a man wouldanswer the charge made against him than that he would not ”.
There undoubtedly is authority for the proposition that failure toreply in circumstances in which a man might reasonably be expected toreply to a charge may be evidence against him. And if it is evidenceagainst him, it can also be relied upon as corroboration where corroborationis required by law.
(1921) 22 N. L. B. 395.
* L. B. (1891) 2 Q~B. 534.
Bassen v. Marikkar
In Rex v. Marks Feigenbaum 1 where the only corroboration of theevidence of the witnesses for the prosecution, who were undaubtedly accom-plices, was the fact that the prisoner when confronted with having setthem up to steal did not deny the charge, the Court of Criminal Appealupheld the conviction. In the course of his judgment Darling J. said,
“ It amounted to this, that the prisoner was charged with inciting theboys to steal; he was told specifically with what he was charged, andhe was told the names of the boys whose detailed statement was readto him ; and in these circumstances he said not one single word. Itappears to us that the Deputy-Chairman would have misdirected thejury if he had told them there was no corroboration of the hoys’evidence.”
There is also a local case exactly in point—Meenatchipillai v. Sanmukam 2.Learned Counsel for the appellant submits that in that case there wereother matters that provided the requisite corroboration. Undoubtedlythere were, but de Sampayo J. took the view that the defendant’sfailure to deny the charge or to make any kind of protest was of itselfsufficient corroboration.
In the present case, if the headman had merely informed the appellantof the woman’s complaint and the appellant had said nothing, no infer-ence of a tacit admission could be drawn. But the headman went further.He told the appellant that he believed the woman’s story adding thatordinarily a woman would not make such a complaint unless it was true.Surely this was an occasion which demanded a denial or a protest. I am,therefore, unable to say that the learned Magistrate’s inference that theappellant’s conduct was corroboration of the truth of the applicant’sstory is not justifiable in law.
The appeal is dismissed with costs.