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Criminal defamation against news paper. appeal allowed

Appeal allowed, Trial court will proceed with criminal defamation case against news paper - Supreme Court.

December 5, 2017

A Bench of Justice Chelameswar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer allowed appeal filed by the complainant in a defamation case filed against a New Paper in 2013.


Facts of the case are that on 16.12.2013 Jaya Kirana News Paper carried a news item containing certain allegations against Mr. Mohammed Abdulla Khan. He lodged a report with the Panambur Police, Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada District on 17.12.2013 against the Mr. Prakash K and another person who was editor of the abovementioned newspaper. Police did not take any action. Thereafter, the complainant filed a private complaint against the same persons before the J.M.F.C.-II, Mangalore in PCR No.24/2014 which eventually came to be numbered as CC No.1252 of 2014. The learned Magistrate took cognizance of the matter on 15.04.2014 for the offences punishable under Section 500, 501 and 502 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The respondents preferred a revision petition before the Sessions Judge, Dakshina Kannada, Mangalore and the revision petition was dismissed subsequently. The respondents approached Karnataka High Court for invoking section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to quash the criminal complaint. On 23.11.2016, the Karnataka High court allowed the petition and proceedings insofar as they pertained to the respondent was quashed. Mr. Mohammed Abdulla Khan filed SLP (crl) No. 1741 of 2017 with the Supreme Court, which was converted into Criminal Appeal No. 2059 of 2017.

A Bench dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant. The law laid down in K.M. Mathew v. K.A. Abraham, (2002) 6 SCC 670 was argued in the matter.

The appellant appeared in person before the court. Inspite of the service of notice, the respondent neither chose to appear in person nor through a counsel. In view of the fact that a substantial question of law is involved in the matter, the court requested Shri M.N. Rao, learned Senior Advocate to assist the Court in this matter.

While passing the Judgment the court observed that:

"The High Court concluded that prosecution of the respondent would lead to miscarriage of justice. A conclusion without any discussion and without disclosing any principle which forms the basis of the conclusion."

The Court further observed that:

"The extent of the applicability of the principle of vicarious liability in criminal law particularly in the context of the offences relating to defamation are neither discussed by the High Court in the judgment under appeal nor argued before us because the respondent neither appeared in person nor through any advocate. Therefore, we desist from examining the question in detail. But we are of the opinion that the question requires a serious examination in an appropriate case because the owner of a newspaper employs people to print, publish and sell the newspaper to make a financial gain out of the said activity. Each of the abovementioned activities is carried on by persons employed by the owner.

The Court also opined that:

"The High Court, in our opinion, without examining the ratio of K.M. Mathew's case chose to conclude that the decision is distinguishable. The judgment of the High Court is absolutely unstructured leaving much to be desired."

In the Judgment the court said that:

"Where defamatory matter is printed (in a newspaper or a book etc.) and sold or offered for sale, whether the owner thereof can be heard to say that he cannot be made vicariously liable for the defamatory material carried by his newspaper etc. requires a critical examination."

"Each case requires a careful scrutiny of the various questions indicated above. Neither prosecutions nor the power 15 under Section 482 CrPC can be either conducted or exercised casually as was done in the case on hand."

The Supreme Court set aside the Judgment passed by the High Court and directed that the trial court will now proceed with the case in accordance with the law.




Read the Order of Supreme Court dated 04.12.2017



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