All HC | It is the duty of media to expose the government and its functionaries, for proper functioning of democratic machinery 

Allahabad High Court: Dinesh Kumar Singh, J. was hearing a petition filed under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter mentioned as CrPC) in the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad pertaining to the complaint filed by the petitioner. 

The petition has been filed by The Group Editor, The Local Editor, and The Press Reporter, Sahara India Mass Communication, Lucknow impugning the orders of summoning by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Case No. 221 of 2010, Ramveer Upadhaiya v. Jaibrat Roy. The case was regarding a news article published by Rashtriya Sahara on 11-09-2009, based on a letter written by Mr Krishan Gopal on behalf of the Chief Minister to Mr J.N. Chamber and a subsequent letter to Mr Navneet Sehgal asking for inquiry over-demanding of Rupees 10 lakhs by respondent 2 (Minister) from Mr R.K. Kashyap, Chief Engineer, Western Electricity, failure in fulfillment of what led to his transfer and his suspension subsequently. Mr. Kashyap later in 2 letters denied allegations over the minister and withdrew his role in the letter writing. 

The petitioner submitted that the article published in ‘Rashtriya Sahara’ on 11-09-2009 was preceded by a similar kind of article published in daily Hindi newspaper ‘Deshbandhu’ and it contained statements made by several political leaders. Later, Mr O.P. Rai, on behalf of the complainant sent a letter to Rashtriya Sahara stating that Mr Kashyap has not given any complaint against the minister. The same was published on 22-10-2009.

The respondent submitted that the petitioners have published the aforesaid news item with an intention to malign the image and reputation of respondent 2 and of the State Government.

The Court held that it is the duty of the press to expose the government and its functionaries. If the press is put under the threat of prosecution, it can not perform its duty and thus the rights granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India is violated. And also the Court took note of the article published in another Hindi daily ‘Deshbandhu’ and if the newspaper had not published the article it would violate its duty. The Court also held that the complaint on behalf of the minister has should be filed through a Public Prosecutor in the Court of Session.

The Court opined that to constitute the offence of defamation under Section 499 of Penal Code, 1860 there has to be imputation, and it must have been made in the manner with intention of causing harm or having reason to believe that this imputation will harm the reputation of a person. It was held that the article is not defamatory and that the complaint is not maintainable before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and hence the petition is allowed. [Ranvijay Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Case No. 284 of 2013, decided on 20-12-2019]

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