THE Delhi High Court Monday quashed criminal defamation proceedings against the Business Standard newspaper and journalist Mitali Saran in relation to an article allegedly making defamatory insinuations against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its members.
A single-judge bench of Justice Suresh Kait opined that because the complainant, Lohitaksha Shukla a lawyer by profession, had failed to show how he was a “person aggrieved” within the definition of Section 199(1) Cr.P.C, the contents of his complaint suffered from the vices of illegality or infirmity.
The complainant is not even a part of an “identifiable class” or definite “association or collection of persons” as enumerated in Explanation (2) to Section 499 of IPC, the judge added.
“The complainant has not led any evidence to establish how his reputation was harmed or his moral or intellectual character was lowered as a result of the said article. However, he has claimed that he has been asked by his friends to leave RSS as a result of this article but he has not brought anyone in the witness box in support of this assertion and thereby, has failed to prove that the article brought any kind of defamation to him or that it has lowered the reputation of RSS in the eyes of his friends or RSS. So, the trial court has erred in not applying its mind on this aspect”, the court said.
Shukla claimed to be swayamsewak of the RSS and its member but he did not bring any witness or material on record to prove the same, the court pointed out.
Referring to Section 199(1) of the CrPC, the high court said a magistrate could take cognizance of the offence only upon receiving a complaint by a person who is aggrieved.
Justice Kait, thus, held that the complaint in question was not maintainable and was liable to be dismissed.
The criminal defamation complaint had arisen from an article titled “The Long and Short of it” which was published on 18.03.2016 in the Business Standard and was also available on the website, under the authorship of Mitali Saran.
In the complaint, Shukla alleged that the article was not based on facts and contained defamatory insinuations against the RSS and its members, as it accused members of RSS of being oppressive to Indians, mentally disturbed, disrespectful to Indian national symbols, ridden with psychosexual complexes, practitioners of discrimination based on caste and physically unfit.
Acting on the complaint, the Metropolitan Magistrate found sufficient material for summoning the accused persons.
It was this complaint and summoning order that was challenged by the petitioners on the ground that if a magistrate were to take cognizance of the offence of defamation on a complaint filed by someone who is not an “aggrieved person”, the trial and conviction of an accused in such a case by the magistrate would be void and illegal.
Seeking to quash the complaint, it was submitted that it was an absolute abuse of the process of law and had been filed to harass the petitioners.
The article was originally published in The Leaflet.