Abiding by truth and dharma is ordained for human beings. Though truth is always to be spoken and honesty is rated to be a noble virtue, at times it is shown that adherence to truth and honesty can be relaxed when dharma has to be protected against adharma.
Sastras allows exceptions to injunctions, depending on what kind of dharma is protected by the lie, pointed out Sri Jamadagni in a discourse.
After seeing Sita in Asoka Vana and conveying tidings of Rama to her, Hanuman takes leave but devises a ploy to have an audience with Ravana. He knows that if he destroys this beautiful Asoka Vana, there is the likelihood that Ravana would confront him and this would enable him to gauge the strength of the enemy.
With his extraordinary strength, Hanuman destroys the place and waits at the entrance ready to confront the consequences.
The rakshasis are frightened and some of them run to Ravana’s presence to apprise him of this disaster. Others approach Sita to enquire who this monkey is. They ask her about his antecedents since they had seen him talking to her. What is the purpose of his visit and what did he talk to her, they query.
Sita merely tells them: “How am I to know the nuances of the art of rakshasas who can take any form at their will? You are the ones who will know who he is and what his intentions are. Only a snake knows about the behaviour of other snakes. I am myself scared of him. I do not know him.”
Though Sita speaks a blatant lie, it is not in the category of adharma. Likewise, speaking the truth at all times may cause harm, especially when righteousness is bullied and exploited by adharma. If a thief pursues an old man who has just drawn cash from a bank and the man deflects into a nearby house on the sideway to escape the thief, and the thief too follows and questions the inmates of the house. The latter are justified to protect the victim and his hard earned money from the thief even if they lied by denying that no one had entered the house.