Calling husband ‘Impotent’ in pleadings can amount to defamation

X (Name withheld) (Original used No 1) vs Y (Name withheld) (Original complainant)

Bombay HC, Nagpur Bench

02/11/2018

CRIMINAL APPLICATION [APL] NO.774 OF 2017

About/from the judgment:

The word “impotent” when understood in its plain and grammatical sense, reflects adversely upon the manhood of a person and has a tendency to invite derisive opinions about such person from others

 

The Bombay High Court has held that calling a husband ‘impotent’ in pleadings can amount to ‘defamation’.

 

A defamation complaint was filed by a husband alleging that his wife made some statements casting aspersions on his potency, in a writ petition filed by her before the high court. Summons issued by the magistrate to the wife was challenged before the high court.

 

The high court rejected the contention put forth by counsel appearing for the wife that whenever an allegation made in litigation is found to be true, it does not amount to defamation within the meaning of Section 499 of IPC. It was also contended that when the complaint is founded on an allegation in a plaint filed in a civil proceeding and has been found to be false, the offence would not be that of defamation punishable under Section 500 of IPC, but an offence relating to giving of false evidence punishable under Section 193 of IPC.

 

In this regard, Justice SB Shukre observed: “The offence is essentially of something which is a matter of evidence or law and not of pleadings. If any defamatory statement is made in pleadings, what would arise would be an offence of defamation punishable under Section 500 read with Section 499 of IPC and not of offence of giving false evidence punishable under Section 193 read with Section 191 of IPC.”

 

The counsel also contended that by the term ‘impotent’, what the wife meant was that due to some medical problem of the husband, the conception of the child was not possible.

 

Rejecting the said contention, the court observed: “Even if the expression “impotent person”, as the learned Counsel for the applicant would like this Court to do, is read in all its contextual setting, in particular, in the context of the birth of the child by adopting a medical procedure on the suggestion of the Gynecologist, still the apparent harm that the expression “impotent person” causes, is not diluted or washed out. This is for the reason that prima facie the word “impotent” when understood in it’s plain and grammatical sense, reflects adversely upon the manhood of a person and has a tendency to invite derisive opinions about such person from others and, therefore, use of such word and its publication as contemplated under Section 499 of IPC would be sufficient to constitute, in a prima facie manner, the offence of defamation punishable under Section 500 of IPC. Now, if the non-applicant submits that this word has been used by her in some different sense denoting condition of the non-applicant affecting the process of conception, it would be a matter of evidence to be proved accordingly. At this stage, the meaning apparently indicated by the word would have to be taken as it is. Then, such imputation has been made by filing a writ petition and, therefore, the other ingredient of publication is also fulfilled in the present case. Therefore, prima facie, the offence punishable under Section 500 of IPC is made out in this case.”

Read the Judgment

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