In this landmark classic case, Supreme Court has held that,
16. In a recent judgment of the House of Lords Rumping v. Director of Public Prosecutions 1962 3 All ER 256 Rumping the in mate of a Dutch ship was tried for murder committed on board the ship. Part of the evidence for the prosecution admitted at the trial consisted of a letter that Rumping had written to his wife in Holland which amounted to a confession. Rumping had written the letter on the day of the killing, and had handed the letter in a closed envelope to a member of the crew requesting him to post it as soon as the ship arrived at the port outside England. After the appellant was arrested, the member of the crew handed the envelope to the captain of the ship who handed it over to the police. The member of the crew, the captain and the translator of the letter gave evidence at the trial, but the wife was not called as witness. It was held that the letter was admissible in evidence. Lord Reid, Lord Morris of Borth-Y-Gest, Lord Hodson and Lord Pearce were of the view that at common law there had never been a separate principle or rule that communications between a husband and wife during marriage were inadmissible in evidence on the ground of public policy. Accordingly except where the spouse to whom the communication is made is a witness and claims privilege from disclosure under the Criminal Evidence Act, 1898 (of which the terms are similar to Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act though not identical), evidence as to communications between husband and wife during marriage is admissible in criminal proceedings.
17. The question whether the complainant in this case is an agent of the wife because he has received the letters from the wife and may be permitted to give evidence is a matter on which no opinion at this stage can be expressed. The complainant claims that he has been defamed by the writing of the letters. The letters are in his possession and are available for being tendered in evidence. We see no reason why inquiry into that complaint should, on the preliminary contentions raised, be prohibited. If the complainant seeks to support his case only upon the evidence of the wife of the accused, he may be met with the bar of Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act. Whether he will be able to prove the letters in any other manner is a matter which must be left to be determined at the trial and cannot be made the subject-matter of an enquiry at this stage.
M.C. Verghese Vs T.J. Ponnan and Anr on 13 November 1968
Supreme Court of India version:
M.C. Verghese Vs T.J. Ponnan and Anr on 13 November 1968 Casemine
Case Mine version:
Citations: [1969 SCR 2 692], [1970 AIR SC 1876], [968 KERLT 904], [1950 AIR TC 38], [1969 SCC 1 37], [1970 CAR 210], [1970 CRLJ 0 1651], [1970 CRI LJ 1651]
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The Index for Defamation Judgments is here.
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