Wife liable for defamatory allegations against husband! Pleadings in trial amount to 'publication' in a suit for defamation.
Sushma Rani Vs Nagaraja Rao
Criminal Revision Petition No. 152 of 2014
About/from the judgment:
Penal Code, 1860 – Section 499 – Defamation – In order that, an act to become a ‘defamation’, there must be (i) an imputation concerning any person; (ii) such an imputation may be by words, either spoken or written or even by signs or by visible representations; (iii) such an imputation must be intending to harm the other person or knowing or having reason to believe that it would harm the reputation of other person. Thus, such an imputation must be made or published and its effect must harm the reputation of the other person against whom such imputations are made.
Penal Code, 1860 – Section 499 – Defamation – the definition itself gives ten Exceptions and any act though fulfills the essentials of the definition of ‘defamation’, still, if falls under any one or more of the Exceptions, then, the same cannot be termed as ‘defamation’ under Section 499 of IPC.
The High Court while allowing the criminal revision in part, remarked that, if the accused seeks to take defense of truth under Section 499 Penal Code, 1860, it is upon him to prove that the statements made are facts.
The present criminal revision is instituted under Section 397 read with Section 401 Criminal Procedure Code, praying to set aside the judgment and sentence confirmed in criminal appeal no. 815 of 2010 by Additional Sessions Judge and also to set aside the judgment of conviction and sentence, passed by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in CC No. 11445 of 2006, thereby acquitting the petitioner against charges of defamation under Section 500 IPC. The series of events leading to the present petition has been summarized hereunder:
- That the respondent-husband had instituted a case for restitution of conjugal rights against the petitioner which was decreed in his favour.
- That in the suit for conjugal rights, the wife made serious allegations against the husband questioning his character, repute, conduct and behaviour against which the husband filed a criminal case (CC No. 11445 of 2006), alleging the offences punishable under Section 500, 191, 193 IPC, 1860.
- That the said criminal case, after trial, ended in the conviction of the accused wife for the offence punishable under Section 500 IPC and was further directed to undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of one month along with payment of fine amounting to Rs 5000.
- Challenging the sentence and conviction, the wife preferred a Criminal Appeal in the Court of Additional Sessions Judge, which was dismissed by an order dated, 15-02-2012, confirming the decision of the Trial Court.
- That against the said confirmation and the judgment, the present criminal revision petition no. 152 of 2014 has been preferred by the wife and seeking enhancement of sentence, ordered by the Trial Court, a criminal revision petition no. 1358 of 2010 has been sought by the complainant (husband).
Both these Criminal Revision Petitions have been treated as connected matters and were taken up together for hearing and disposal.
- Whether the complainant has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused has committed an offence punishable under Section 500 IPC?
- Whether the sentence, as passed by the trial court, deserves to be enhanced?
- Whether the judgments and order on sentence impugned under these revision petitions suffer with any illegality, impropriety, warranting interference at the hands of the Court?
The Court while reproducing Section 500 IPC, said, “In order to be defamatory, a publication must tend to lower the complainant in the opinion of men whose standard of opinion, the Court can properly recognize or tend to induce them to entertain an ill-opinion of him. However, the complainant need not show a tendency of imputation to prejudice him in the eye of every one in the community or all of his associates, but it is sufficient to establish that the publication tends to lower him in the estimation of a substantial, respectable group, even though they are totally different community or of the complainant’s associates.”
The Court further cited opinions of several Courts with respect to whether pleadings can constitute publication to determine the offence of Defamation, under Section 500 IPC.
- Chiranshree Das v. Amitabh Das, reported in LAWS(KAR)-2018-8-304; “Making a defamatory matter known after it has been written to some person other than the person for whom it is written is a ‘publication’ in its legal sense. A defamatory matter must, therefore, be communicated to some person other than the person concerning whom it is written.”
- Madhuri Mukund v. Mukund Martand, 1990 SCC OnLine Bom 410, “Bombay High Court observed 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 imputations are made must be held to be sufficient publication falling within the purview of Section 499 IPC.”
- K. Prabhakaran v. Gangadharan, 2006 SCC OnLine Ker 302, “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 the Court of law, that statement can be taken as published. If such 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 IPC.”
- Sanjay Mishra v. NCT of Delhi, 2012 SCCOnLine Del 1779, “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.”
- Thangavelu Chettiar v. Ponnamal, 1965 SCC OnLine Mad 248, “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.”
The Court further, examined the statements made by the wife before the trial court and said, “The contents of the statements of the accused, per se, reveal that the allegations are defamatory in nature unless they are shown to be falling under any of the exceptions within Section 499 IPC”
Allowing the criminal revision in part, the Court upheld the conviction passed by the trial court holding the accused guilty for the offence of Defamation under Section 500 IPC. The sentence of simple imprisonment for the period of one month was set aside, on considerate terms and the fine amount was increased from Rs 5000 to Rs 15000.
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