"Action of defamation on fair reporting is unhealthy for a democratic setup": Bombay High Court. "Inasmuch as, fair reporting of the information, which is brought in public domain i.e news item containing a statement of facts may not attract action for defamation" Justice Vinay Joshi on the present case. The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court recently ruled that the media has a right...
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"Action of defamation on fair reporting is unhealthy for a democratic setup": Bombay High Court.
"Inasmuch as, fair reporting of the information, which is brought in public domain i.e news item containing a statement of facts may not attract action for defamation" Justice Vinay Joshi on the present case.
The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court recently ruled that the media has a right to report on the registration of first information reports (FIR) and cases filed in court. Therefore, a defamation action cannot lie based on such reports.
The present petition was filed by Vijay Darda and Rajendra Darda of Lokmat Media Pvt Ltd for quashing the criminal proceedings against them for a defamation complaint.
The complaint was filed pursuant to a news publication pertaining to the registration of crime against the Complainant and his family. The Complainant alleged the crimes to be false and defamatory.
Upon perusal of the submissions made by both parties, the Court noted that the news report was solely based on the FIR filed before the police officials, and is in consonance hereof.
The Court observed that the press has a great deal of responsibility for publishing anything in newspapers, and therefore utmost care must be taken before such publications. News publication on rumor or hear-say information having no iota of truth is fatal to a Journalist.
In the present case, the new report was based on a registered FIR as opposed to a distorted news item.
Emphasizing the importance of Freedom of the Press, the Court noted that "Freedom of the Press is implied from the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. In other words, the freedom of making a true report regarding the affairs which are in the public domain is a right, which flows from the freedom of speech."
It was further noted by the Court that:
"One cannot miss the fact regarding the conduct and manner in which the news item was published. The whole reading of the news item discloses that the reporting was not only as regards to registration of crime against the complainant and his family members but in the same news another story i.e. registration of a counter case against another group has also been published. The said fact accentuates to infer that the sole intention behind publication was to make true and fair disclosure about the fact of registration of crimes."
Given these observations, the single judge bench quashed the criminal proceedings of defamation.
Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with Defamation. According to Sec 499 of the IPC, "Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person."