All HC | Onus of proving ingredients under the First Exception, S. 499 IPC is on the accused; Defence being a question of fact cannot be claimed at the stage of issuance of summons

Allahabad High Court: Yogendra Kumar Srivastava, J. dismissed the petition and declined to entertain the present application in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC.

The instant application was filed under Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code seeking to quash the proceedings of Complaint Case No.10 of 2019 under Section 500 IPC, pending before Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Court. The present application also assails a summon order dated 18-01-2020.

Counsel for the applicant Mr Birendra Prasad Shukla submitted that the offence under Section 499 IPC is not made out inasmuch as the case is covered under the first exception to the section which provides that if the imputation is made for the public good, the same would not amount to defamation.

Counsel for the opposite party submitted that the question as to whether imputation is made for public good or not would be a question of fact which is to be seen in the trial and the same cannot be taken as a ground to seek quashing of the proceedings.

The Court observed that Section 499 of the Penal Code states as to when an act of imputation amounts to defamation. It contains four explanations and ten exceptions and section 500 prescribes punishment in such cases. The ten exceptions to Section 499 state the instances in which an imputation, prima facie defamatory, may be excused. The first exception corresponds to the defence which may be set up by taking the plea of the imputation being true and for public good. This exception recognizes the publication of truth as a sufficient justification, if it is made for the public good. Truth by itself would be no justification in criminal law, unless it is proved that its publication was for the public good.

The Court relied on Chaman Lal v. State of Punjab, (1970) 1 SCC 590 and observed that while considering the plea of defence of public good, under the first exception to Section 499, it was held that public good is a question of fact and the onus of proving the two ingredients under the first exception i.e. the imputation is true and the publication is for public good, is on the accused.

The Court observed that defamation is both a crime and a civil wrong. In a civil action for defamation in tort, truth is a defence, but in a criminal action, the accused would be required to prove both the truth of the matter and also that its publication was for public good and no amount of truth would justify a defamatory act unless its publication is proved to have been made for public good. It further observed that the benefit of the first exception to Section 499 IPC being a question of fact, can be decided during trial only and cannot be claimed at the stage of issuance of summons.

The Court held “The protection of the first exception to Section 499 of the Penal Code, which is being relied upon on behalf of the applicant, is not to be seen at this stage.”[Rajesh Churiwala v. State of U.P, 2021 SCC OnLine All 501, decided on 14-07-2021]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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