One-sided reporting of an ongoing court proceeding is not covered under Exception 4 to S. 499 IPC

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of S.K. Awasthi, J., held that a piece of newspaper reporting one-sided ongoing court proceedings without mentioning the defence of the other side may amount to defamation and was sufficient to issue process under Section 200 CrPC.

The contents of piece of newspaper in question consist of the information regarding the trial proceedings going on against the applicant. The said piece also reported a series of orders passed against the applicant along with his photograph. Aggrieved by the same, the applicant filed a case under Section 499 IPC against the respondent newspaper. However the trial court refused to issue process holding that the said piece was a reporting of court proceedings and was covered by Exception 4 to Section 499. The applicant challenged the said order in the High Court.

The Court considered the record as well as law on the subject and observed that the contents of the news piece in question contain imputations against the applicant which were scathing in nature and impeached upon his social image. The Court further observed that under Section 499, as while reporting a court proceeding which is yet to be taken to its logical end, no offender can be permitted to publish a report which only refers to the version of one side and completely omits the defence put up from the other side. From the manner in which the reporting of the court proceeding was done in this case, it was clear that the purpose was to report the version of one party which would tarnish the reputation of the other side; and if such type of selective reporting is permitted then the Courts will be undermining the rights of the other party which is to lead life with dignity. It may be borne in mind that a ‘fair reporting’ of a court proceeding is protected by virtue of Exception 4 to Section 499. A report, which substantially deal with contentions of both the parties even though the author and newspaper records its own opinion about the entire controversy can, in no manner, be held to be punishable under Section 499, but the Court cannot turn its blind eye towards inaccurate and selective reporting of court proceedings.

The Court held that the present was a case of selective and one-sided reporting of ongoing court proceedings and hence were not protected by Exception 4 to Section 499. Consequently, the order of trial court refusing to issue process against the respondents was set aside and the matter was remitted back with a direction to consider the complaint filed by the applicant in light of the discussion hereinabove. [M.P. Mansinghka v. Dainik Pratah Kaal, M. CR. C. No. 7890 of 2013, order dated 15-2-2018]

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