Article on a rift between police officers published in newspaper: Will the reporter be punished under S. 505 IPC? Bom HC decides

Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court: In a matter wherein, a journalist sought to quash proceedings against him for publishing news items regarding the rift between the officers of the police departments, the Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., expressed that:

“If we will say that any news article pertaining to two Sections of any Department will fall within the purview of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, in that case, we are interpreting the provisions of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code too far and it is not expected by legislatures.”

Issue


When there is a publication of news suggesting disharmony amongst the police staff attached to 2 Offices under the Police Commissionerate, whether it attracts the provisions of Section 505(2) of the Penal Code, 1860?

Whether police case is maintainable if an offence under Section 500 of the IPC is alleged to have been committed in respect of a public servant?

Background


Two news articles were published, one on 8-10-2017 and another on 22-5-2018.

“In the news dated 8 October 2017, the news was published about the incident that took place when there was a raid on Sawan Hotel, Solapur by the police attached to City Crime Branch. At that time, one police personnel on a uniform was heavily drunk in that hotel, and there was a videography and it was circulated on social media. On account of that, the news further says that there were a tussle in between the Office of Deputy Commissioner of Police and the police attached to Crime Branch.”

In the Edition dated 22 May 2018. It says that:-

“the police staff attached to Crime Branch Office is not following the instructions given by the Senior Officers of Crime Branch, but they are having a loyalty to Deputy Commissioner of Police.”

In view of the above, a complaint was lodged against the petitioner who was the reporter of the above-stated two articles.

Police registered an offence under Sections 505(2), 500, 501 and 502 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Analysis, Law and Decision


High Court noted that, in the two articles, the petitioner had said about a rift between the staff of the Office of Deputy Police Commissioner and staff attached to the Crime branch of Solapur Unit.

Bench added that, on reading the said articles, any person from the society would certainly form an opinion that there was a rift in between the police personnel of two offices. Further, the said articles may not give a good message about the overall functioning of the Police Commissionerate Office and it’s true that it would create an alarm amongst the members of the society, that whether the Police of Solapur were in a position to protect their interest in case of need.

In Court’s opinion, the content of the two articles did not deal with any of the following subjects:

(a) relation

(b) race,

(c) place of birth,

(d) residence,

(e) language,

(f) caste,

(g) community,

(f) any other ground

Hence, the said does not fall within the purview of Section 505(2) of IPC.

Adding to the above, Court stated that,

If we will say that any news article pertaining to two Sections of any Department will fall within the purview of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, in that case, we are interpreting the provisions of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code too far and it is not expected by legislatures.

Therefore, the police had wrongly invoked the provisions of Section 505 (2) IPC.

Application of Section 500 IPC

Bench while stating that without going into the issue of whether the news article caused defamation or not, it is true that the procedure under Section 199(2) nor under Section 199(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure was followed.

Hence, pertaining to offences under Sections 500, 501 and 502 of OPC also does not stand the scrutiny of law.

Lastly, the Court added that the petitioner-accused could make out a case under the exception to Section 499 of IPC, but the same was only possible when the prosecution would have initiated validly by filing a proper complaint.

In view of the above, offence punishable under Sections 505(2), 500, 501 and 502 of the Penal Code, 1860 was quashed and set aside. [Amol Kashinath Vyavhare v. Purnima Chaugule Shrirangi,  2022 SCC OnLine Bom 1000, decided on 6-5-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Anvil S. Kalekar for the Petitioner.

Mr. J.P. Yagnik for the Respondent-State.

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