Innocuous reference as “Atankwadi” to a person accused in criminal cases not libelous as he had already lost social prestige and reputation: Patna HC

Patna High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. set aside an order of lower court in a libel suit ruling that where a person had already lost reputation in society on account of being accused in several criminal cases; an innocuous statement could not be said to have caused further damage to his reputation.

Respondent herein had filed a libel suit against appellant alleging that in an application filed by the appellant before Anchal Adhikari, Beldaur he had been referred to by appellant as Atankwadi. The said suit was decreed in favour of respondent and damage of Rs. 5000 was awarded for loss of his prestige and reputation. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the instant appeal contending that the lower court had presumed loss of prestige and reputation of respondent without any sound basis.

It was submitted that admittedly, respondent was accused in several criminal cases alleging loot of crops wherein he was on bail. Therefore, an innocuous statement made before Anchal Adhikari would not be the original reason for the loss of his prestige because an accused who is on bail has already lost some prestige. Mere reference to him as Atankwadi would not give him cause of action for bringing a suit for libel on the ground of losing social prestige and reputation, as society was already aware that he was accused in many cases in which he was on bail.

The Court observed that the appellant had filed a number of criminal cases against the respondent in which the respondent was on bail. Thus, the mere reference to respondent as Atankwadi in a petition filed by the appellant before Anchal Adhikari could not have caused any further damage to his prestige or reputation.

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed. [Chandra Kishore Khetan v. Prakash Kumar Khetan,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 2174, decided on 06-12-2018]

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