Showing posts with label defamation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label defamation. Show all posts

04 October 2020

It amounts defamation u/s.499 of IPC if defamatory contents of pleading filed in a matrimonial case are revealed to relatives and friends of complainant

Learned Amicus Curiae for the respondent/complainant in Criminal Revision Petition Crl.R.P.No.152/2014, in her argument stating that the pleadings filed in a Court and the deposition given in a Court of Law are not privileged one and further stating that a pleading filed in the Court also amounts to publication, has relied upon few judgments in her support as follows.
    In the case of Smt. Madhuri Mukund Chitnis Vs. Mukund Martand Chitnis and another reported in 1990 CRL.L.J. 2084, the Bombay High Court was pleased to observe that, the imputations made in a proceeding which is filed in a Court is clearly a publication. It further observed that even a publication to an authority over the person against whom the imputations are made must be held to be sufficient publication which falls within the purview of the said Section 499 of IPC.

It amounts defamation u/s.499 of IPC if defamatory contents of pleading filed in a matrimonial case are revealed to relatives and friends of complainant

    In the case of M.K. Prabhakaran and another Vs.T.E. Gangadharan and another reported in 2006 CRI.L.J. 1872, the Kerala High Court, in a matter where it is alleged that defamatory statements against complainant were made in a written statement filed before the Court held that, once a statement has been filed in a Court of Law, that statement can be taken as published. If such a statement amounts to per se defamatory, then it is the duty of the accused to establish that, they are justified in making such a statement under any of the exceptions to Section 499 of IPC. 

    In the case of Sanjay Mishra Vs. Government of NCT of Delhi & another, the Delhi High Court in paragraphs 11 and 12 of its judgment was pleased to observe as below:-
"11. In Sandyal V.Bhaba Sundari Debi 7 Ind.Cas.803:15 C.W.N. 995:14 C.L.J.31 the learned Judges, following the case of Augada Ram Shaha V. Nemai Chand Shaha 23 C.867;12 Ind.Dec.(n.s.)576, held that defamatory statements made in the written statement of a party in a judicial proceedings are not absolutely privileged in this country, and that a qualified privilege in this regard cannot be claimed in respect of such statements, unless they fall within the Exceptions to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. Undisputedly, the case of the petitioner was not in any of these Exceptions.
    12. For criminal purposes "publication" has a wider meaning than it has in civil law, since it includes a communication to the person defamed alone. The prosecution for defamation in criminal cases can be brought although the only publication is to the person defamed as it is very likely to provoke a breach between the persons involved...."
    
    In the case of Thangavelu Chettiar Vs. Ponnammal reported in AIR 1966 Mad 363, the Madras High Court was pleased to observe that, there can be no doubt that the defamation contained in the plaint was published by the plaint being filed in the Court.[Para No.15]

30 September 2020

Chairman/Managing Director of a news channel/house can be held liable for publication of the offending news item only if he has any role in selecting the news and publishing the same with active knowledge and intent

Chairman/Managing Director of a news channel can be held liable for publication of the offending news item only if it can be shown that he was somehow concerned with publication of the defamatory news item and that he had active knowledge thereof. As held in S Nihal Singh & Ors. v. Arjan Das; 1983 Cri. L.J. 777, an individual cannot be asked to answer the charge of defamation merely because he happened to be the Chairman of a company which owns a newspaper, without there being any further evidence as regards his participation in the actual management and administration of the affairs of the company.[Para No.13]

    So, the whole concept of fastening liability hinges on knowledge. As held in Kalanithi Maran v. A Rathinaraj; 2017 SCC Online Mad 9723 and G K Mani v. New Generation Media Corporation (P.) Ltd; 2019 SCC Online Mad 8332, for fastening liability, what is of paramount importance is that knowledge has to be attributed to the accused person. In Kalanithi (supra), the petitioner is the Chairman-cum- MD of Sun TV Network Ltd. and the complaint was filed against him for telecasting an interview between the complainant and one person, on the allegation of falsity of the statement given in the news and consequently, the MD is equally responsible for telecasting such defamatory statement. The Hon'ble High Court held as below:-

Chairman/Managing Director of a news channel/house can be held liable for publication of the offending news item only if he has any role in selecting the news and publishing the same with active knowledge and intent
"Vicarious liability under Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, is not applicable to electronic media. Therefore, only general rule is applicable in the present case. To attract the offence of defamation, the imputation must have been made with the knowledge or intention or at least with reason to believe that it will harm the person concerned."[Para No.14]

07 August 2020

Casual remarks or replies on social media or press note does not amount to defamation if it does not cause serious harm or potential ill effect on reputation of a person

Defamation - Sec. 499 and 500 of IPC -  Whether a particular statement or words are defamatory or not? How it can be decided and what criteria can be applied?



 On the point what constitutes defamation, it is useful to refer to the ratio laid down in S. Khushboo (supra), which is as follows:
In the case of S. Khushboo (supra), the Supreme Court considered whether a particular statement or words are defamatory or not, how it can be decided and what criteria can be applied. In the said case, the appellant made certain statements about the sexual behaviour of people in Tamil Nadu which were published in a magazine, so many organizations filed the complaint against her on Sections 411 and 500 of Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court held that a morally provocative statement does not make out any offence. So also the general statement made about the sexual habits of the people in Tamil Nadu does not make out any offence. The Supreme Court gave guidelines that any remark which could reasonably amount to the offence of defamation, is to be verified. The defamation though is a factual question and the statutory defences are available to the accused, the imperative question is whether the allegations in the complaint supported a prima facie case of defamation in the first place.[Para No.39]


    Defamation is broadly defined as false statement, damaging one's goodwill or reputation or image. Article 19 of the Constitution of India i.e., right to freedom, speech and expression gives no licence to any person to defame others as the fundamental right is enjoyed with reasonable restrictions. Generally, there is not much difference in goodwill and reputation of the company. It means a credibility and trustworthiness. Even something true may be also defamation in certain circumstances. Thus, lowering down one's estimation in the eyes of a public is defamation. A person may be dishonest, but he may be holding a reputation of high values. Thus, the right is jus in rem. However, the statement must be understood as defamatory by right thinking or reasonable minded persons. Therefore, there are certain yardsticks to decide whether the statement is defamatory or not, which are as follows :

(i) The statement to be read and understood with a context. It is to be read in its entirety.

(ii) Natural and ordinary meaning of the words is to be followed. What meaning the words would convey to the ordinary man is a litmus test.

(iii) Whether the statement brings hatred, stress, contempt and ridicule, will decide whether it is defamatory or not.

(iv) Imputation of fraud, dishonesty and corruption by rendering sub quality services, causing damage, sub quality manufacturing goods, use of abusive language are the glaring examples of defamation.

(v) Every incorrect statement or written statement or every statement which is disapproved or not liked is not necessarily defamatory statement. In such a case, defamation is taken very subjectively, but the Court has to use reasoning of the ordinary man and adopt objective approach.


    There are certain statements involving shades of irony, innuendo and sarcasm where indirectly or impliedly a person is defamed.[Para No.40]


    At the outset, it is made clear that while assessing the legality of the issuance of process in the offence of defamation, the exceptions laid down in section 499 of the Indian Penal Code are not to be taken into account as that is a defence available to the accused. Therefore, whether the order of issuance of process is correct or not is to be judged only after considering the averments made and the alleged statements made in the complaint.[Para No.41]

Casual remarks or replies on social media or press note does not amount to defamation if it does not cause serious harm or potential ill effect on reputation of a person
    Whether innocuous gossip or trivial accusation will be defamation or whether casual remarks or replies on social media is defamation, etc. are the issues that crop up before the Courts. However, a Judge has to see whether serious harm is caused to the person or it has a potential ill effect on his or her reputation. In the present case, the statements and the words do not manifest ill- will to damage the reputation of the complainant-company but it is a denial of the actions taken by Shapoorji Pallonji Group and Mr.Cyrus Mistry. The Judge has to be cautious while looking at the defamatory statements and has to control personification of his views about public feelings and opinion. It should be strictly a reasonable person's opinion. It is also to be kept in mind that a reasonable person is not a lawyer or a Judge but a common man; a right thinking common man. Thus, the test can be objectively applied.[Para No.44]


29 April 2020

WhatsApp Group is a public place

WhatsApp cannot be a public place if messages are exchanged on personal accounts of two persons. If these messages had been posted on WhatsApp Group, in that case the same could have been called as public place because all the members of the group, will have access to those messages. It is not the prosecution case that the alleged obscene messages were posted on WhatsApp Group of which the petitioner and the respondent No. 2 and others are the members. Therefore, sending the personal messages on WhatsApp will not amount to utterance of obscene words in public place. Therefore, Section 294 of the I.P.C. cannot be invoked.[Para no.10]
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