Asia & Australia

November 16, 2018

Calling a man “impotent” constitutes offence of defamation, badly reflects his manhood: Bombay HC


Bombay High Court

In a recent ruling, refusing to quash criminal proceedings initiated against a woman by her estranged husband for terming him ‘impotent’ in her writ petition, a single-judge bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justice Sunil Shukre said that calling a person “impotent” constitutes the offence of defamation and it badly reflects his manhood.

Justice Shukre added, “Prima facie, the word ‘impotent’, when understood in plain and grammatical sense, reflects adversely upon person’s manhood and has a tendency to invite derisive opinions about him from others. Therefore, its usage and publication as contemplated under Section 499 (damage to reputation) would be sufficient to constitute the offence of defamation under Section 500 (punishment for defamation) of IPC.”

Justice Shukre then said that even if the expression “impotent person” is read in all its contextual setting, particularly in the childbirth by adopting a medical procedure on gynecologist’s suggestion, still the apparent harm that the expression causes is not diluted or washed out.

The woman, who had left her matrimonial home along with her daughter, had filed a divorce case in a family court in Rajahmundry. However, this court had granted the daughter’s interim custody to the father.

The wife then challenged the family court’s order in the Bombay HC, where she stated that her estranged husband is an impotent person and the child was born by medical ovulation period technique as was suggested by the gynaecologist.

Irked by this, the man thus filed a suit of defamation and criminal intimidation against his wife and in-laws. The woman had approached the HC after a magistrate court on July 24, 2017 had issued process against her and her relatives on the basis of her husband’s complaint.

The woman justified that she did not want to mention about her husband’s impotency in her plea, but his conduct compelled her to write that their child was born by medical ovulation period technique.

Noting that the wife had also issued a threat to her husband of doing something to injure his reputation if he did not follow her instructions, Justice Shukre said, “Reading her allegations without adding/subtracting anything from it, one gets an impression that it’s defamatory in character and has been, prima facie, calculated to cause harm or injury to husband’s reputation. It also gives an impression that apparently, it has been made with consciousness about the repercussion that such a statement would have on his life.”

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