NATIONAL SUGAR MILLS LTD Vs. ASHUTOSH MUKHERJEE
HIGH COURT OF CALCUTTA
NATIONAL SUGAR MILLS LTD.
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G.K. Mitter, J. -
(1.) This is an application for an interim injunction pending the determination of the suit to restrain the defendant, his servants and agents from publishing the words mentioned in paragraph 4 of the petition or any of them or any similar words or words to the like effect which are defamatory of the plaintiff.
(2.) This suit was filed on June 13, 1960, by the plaintiff, a company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act and having its registered office at No. 15, Chittaranjan Avenue, Calcutta, within the jurisdiction, of this Court. The defendant is described in the plaint as the printer, publisher and editor of a Bengali weekly newspaper called "Mayurakshi" having circulation among other places in Calcutta within the jurisdiction of this Court and in the district of Birbhum. The full text of the publication, a good portion whereof is in Bengali, is contained in Annexure "A" to the plaint. It refers to the way in which the plaintiff company carries on business and there can be no two opinions on the point that the publication is clearly libellous. On translation of the Bengali portion into English the whole as shown in the said annexure reads as follows:
"This age is very dangerous. Beneficial advice out of good motive is not heeded to. Ahmedpur Sugar Factory is a National Concern. Forgers or Cheats should have no place there. Accounts, receipt, cash Memo, should be absolutely correct every one expects it to be so. Sugar of this Mill is sold at the rate of Rs. 52/-per maund but pash memos are issued at the rate of Rs. 45/-. If any shopkeeper or trader does the same every one calls him a cheat, or a swindler. The Sugar mill--though a national concern, has earned such bad reputation. Sir Mihir Lal Chatterjee informed the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal of the story of realising Rs. 52/- on granting receipts at the rate of Rs. 45/- in connection with discussion of Budget on 26th March. The Chief Minister admitted it in his reply. But what the Chief Minister said is irrelevant and misleading. Issue of receipts at Rs. 45/- realising a pfice at Rs. 52/- per maund and concealment of the said additional sum of Rs. 7/- by falsification of accounts is nothing but an attempt at theft in the eyes of accountants. If a national concern issues receipts for Rs. 45/- after talcing sums of Rs. 52/-and does not issue receipts for Rs. 7/- why ordinary merchants would not follow suit. The irrelevant, meaningless, illogical answer of the Chief Minister is set out below: 'As regards the price, I may tell my friends here that in spite of writing to the Central Government about the price at which sugar from the West Bengal Mills can be sold, they have refused to give us any ceiling price. I take it therefore that the intention is that it can be sold at any price that they chose to give according to the market rate. I have also heard what Shri Chatterji has said about there being little variation in the price rate. I have made enquiries and I have found that although the ordinary price is Rs. 45/-a maund, which is allowed by the Government of India, they have sold in some cases at Rs. 52/-per maund. They have kept Rs. 7/- in the accounts separately in case the Government of India allows that extra money to b& utilised for that fund--in that case it will be merged in the general accounts, otherwise it will be shown as reappropriation for sale. There is no question of any price. The money that has been realised on the sale of sugar is shown partially as sale price and partially under a separate head. In case the Government of India says "you can charge up to Rs. 52/- it will be merged in the general account." So there are no ways to deny that receipts are being issued for Rs. 45/- and secretly Rs. 52/-are being realised. That is Rs. 7/- per each maund are being taken without receipt. The same has been admitted by Dr. Bidhan Roy, Receipts would be issued for a figure but different figures would be accepted secretly, that is called cheating. Dr. Bidhan Roy has informed in this connection that One lakh maunds of sugar has been manufactured in this mill. So in fact 7 lakhs of rupees have been realised without receipts and kept concealed. Neither the mill authorities nor the Government would have admitted unless Mihir Babu disclosed about the fact of those 7 lakhs in the legislative assembly. The same would have vanished in invisible manner. The West Bengal Government (in this state aided mill) by affording mis-appropriation through cash memos has allowed pollution of morals. The mill by this dishonest device has put in its own pocket Rupees 7 lakhs from the customers of sugar. An intelligent reader will be dumbfounded with astonishment after reading the statement of Dr. Bidhan Roy carefully. Has any one heard about such types of accounts, receipts and account books? What else may be called cheating?"
(3.) It is not disputed that the issue of Mayurakshi on the 7th of April, 1960, contained the defamatory matter complained of. The plaintiff complains that by the said words and publication the defendant meant and was understood to mean that the plaintiff had sold sugar produced by it at a price over the controlled rate and that by its method of trade and business it had made a profit of Rs. 7,00,000/- which had not been accounted for and which had been or would be mis-appropriated by the plaintiff and its management and that the plaintiff was carrying on business dishonestly with a view to defraud and was defrauding its customers and shareholders alike and that its books of account and documents and papers were not kept in the proper way so as to allow the misappropriation of a portion of the sale proceeds of its products. The plaintiff has claimed Rs. 5,00,000/- as and by way of damages for the injury to its credit and reputation and has further prayed that the defendant be restrained perpetually from continuing to publish the charge contained in the said newspaper of the 7th April, 1960, or similar charges against the plaintiff in the future issues of the said newspaper. In paragraph 8 of the plaint it is stated that the publication was made at amongst other places, Calcutta within the jurisdiction of this Court. The reliefs prayed for are : 1. A decree for Rs. 5,00,000/- as damages; 2. Perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, its servants and agents from the publication of the said words or words to the like effect;
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