Supreme Court: In the case where BJP MLA Vijender Gupta was accused of posting defamatory tweets about Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the bench of SA Nazeer and V Ramasubramanian*, JJ has held that, if a person belonging to a political party challenges a person holding public office by stating “I will expose your scam”, the same may not amount to defamation.
The controversy relates to a series of tweets posted by Vijender Gupta posing questions of Manish Sisodia regarding facts relating to the construction of some buildings.
In one of the tweets he stated,
“I am sure that your answer will disclose your scam in the construction of these rooms but you are avoiding to give answer but I will obtain the reply”.
The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate found sufficient grounds to proceed against Gupta under Section 500 IPC and the Delhi High Court affirmed the said finding.
The Supreme Court, however, disagreed and observed that a statement in a tweet that the answers of Sisodia to the questions posed by Gupta will disclose his scam, cannot be said to be defamatory as defamatory statement should be specific and not very vague and general. The essential ingredient of Section 499 is that the imputation made by the accused should have the potential to harm the reputation of the person against whom the imputation is made.
“The claim made by a person involved in politics that the answers provided by his rival in public office to the questions posed by him, will expose his scam, cannot be per se stated to be intended to harm the reputation of the person holding office. The statements such as “I will expose you”, “I will expose your corrupt practices” and “I will expose the scam in which you are involved, etc.” are not by themselves defamatory unless there is something more.”
Interestingly, this case was clubbed with the case where MP Manoj Tiwari was accused of defamation of Manish Sisodia as he had held a Press Conference alleging that Sisodia was involved in corruption to the tune of Rs. 2000 crores, in the matter of award of contracts for building classrooms in Delhi Government Schools. He was charged with under Sections 500 and 34 IPC with three others. The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate has summoned these four accused as well.
The Supreme Court held that both the matters should not have been clubbed as Gupta was only charged under Section 500 IPC.
[Manoj Kumar Tiwari v. Manish Sisodia, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1434, decided on 17.10.2022]
*Judgment by: Justice V. Ramasubramanian
For appellants: Senior Advocates R. Venkataramani and Pinky Anand,
For Respondent: Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Advocate Shadan Farasat