Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court: In a revision petition seeking to quash of criminal proceeding against the petitioner, an altruist monk, under Sections 500 and 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), a single-judge bench comprising of Shampa Dutt (Paul),* J., held that the prosecution failed to establish the essential elements of offenses under Sections 500 and 506 of the IPC against the petitioner and quashed the criminal proceeding. The Court upheld the constitutionality of the relevant provisions.


In the instant matter, the petitioner filed a revision petition seeking to quash criminal proceedings under Sections 500 and 506 of the IPC, pending before the Learned Judicial Magistrate, 7th Court at Alipore, South 24 Parganas. The petitioner claims to be an altruist monk serving humanity as the Secretary of Bharat Sevasram Sangha Hospital. The genesis of the case traces back to a complaint filed by the opposite party alleging offenses under Sections 500 and 506 IPC against the petitioner. The complaint alleges various instances of harassment, humiliation, and interference by the petitioner against the opposite party, a reputed doctor associated with the same hospital. The magistrate, upon prima facie finding, issued process against the petitioner under Sections 500 and 506 of the IPC.

Parties’ Contention

The petitioner contended that the proceeding was initiated with the sole intention to harass him and lacks merit. It is argued that the contents of the complaint do not meet the essential elements of offenses under Sections 500 and 506 of the IPC. The petitioner relied on Dipankar Bagchi v. State of W.B., 2009 SCC OnLine Cal 1877, to support his stance that mere allegations without prima facie evidence do not constitute defamation. On the other hand, the opposite party contended that he was being harassed and interfered with by the petitioner over the past four years and highlighted the instances which affected his professional practice and reputation, including locking his clinic and diverting patients elsewhere.

Moot Point

  1. Whether the complaint satisfies the essential ingredients of offenses under Sections 500 and 506 of the IPC?

  2. Whether the initiation of criminal proceedings against the petitioner is an abuse of process and intended solely to harass him?

Court’s Analysis

The Court noted that while the petitioner disputes the allegations, no witnesses have been examined in support of the opposite party’s case. The Court noted the ongoing debate on the constitutionality of criminal defamation laws in India, questioning their excessive restriction on freedom of speech and alleged vagueness. The Court referred to Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India, (2016) 7 SCC 221, where the Supreme Court while affirming the protection of reputation as a fundamental right, upheld the constitutionality of Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC. The Court noted that the Supreme Court referred to Constituent Assembly Debates to understand what the framers of the Constitution meant by the word “defamation” in Article 19(2) and held that “the word is its own independent identity. It stands alone and defamation laws have to be understood as they were when the Constitution came into force.” While using the principle of “balancing of fundamental rights”, the Supreme Court in Subramanian Swamy (Supra), held that the right to freedom and speech and expression cannot be “allowed so much room that even reputation of an individual which is a constituent of Article 21 would have no entry into that area”. The Court held that Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC are not vaguely worded or ambiguous.

The Court examined the provisions of Section 499 and 500 of the IPC and noted that Section 499 defines defamation as any spoken or written words or visible representations intended to harm a person’s reputation and Section 500 prescribes punishment for defamation, requiring intent to harm or knowledge that the imputation will harm the person’s reputation. The Court also considered the requirements for establishing an offense under Section 506 of the IPC, particularly criminal intimidation. The Court noted that the impugned complaint purportedly falls under 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th exceptions to defamation as per Section 499 of the IPC, suggesting absence of essential ingredients for an offense under Section 500 of the IPC. The Court referred to Mohd. Wajid v. State of U.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 951, where the Supreme Court emphasised the necessity to establish intent to cause alarm for an offense under Section 506, which the present complaint allegedly lacks. The Court noted that the requirement of following ingredients to constitute an offence under Section 506 of IPC:

  1. “The petitioner being the Secretary of the charitable organization (position of lawful authority) and the complainant allegedly not being permitted to work, and censured (in good faith), the said act if any is “not threatening”.

  2. There was no threat of any injury to the person (complainant), his reputation or property or in whom he was interested.

  3. There was clearly no intention to cause alarm to the complainant.”

The Court asserted that it is clear that the ingredients required to constitute the offence under Sections 500 and 506 are not prima facie present against the petitioner and there are no materials in this case for proceeding against the petitioner towards trial, therefore the present case is a fit case where the inherent power of the court should be exercised. The Court referred to Prakash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab, (2007) 1 SCC 1, and stated that the ultimate test is whether the allegations have any substance and since, there is no substance in the allegations and no material exists to prima facie make out the case against the petitioner, the impugned proceeding in this case is liable to be quashed.

Court’s Decision

The Court quashed the criminal proceedings under Sections 500/506 of the IPC in favor of the petitioner. All connected applications were disposed of, and any interim orders were vacated.

[Swami Brahmatmananda Maharaj v. Alak Kumar Maiti, 2024 SCC OnLine Cal 2086, order dated 29-02-2024]

*Judgment by Justice Shampa Dutt (Paul)

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Arindam Jana, Mr. Arhan Sengupta, Counsel for the Petitioner

Mr. Md. Anwar Hossain, Ms. Sreyashee Biswas, Counsel for the State

Mr. Biplab Mitra, Ms. Trina Mitra, Counsel for the Opposite Party 1

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