Jharkhand High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Ananda Sen, J., while addressing the instant matter with regard to the application of Section 228A of Penal Code, 1860 and subsequently the provision of defamation expressed that:

“…publishing of newspaper report of facts of lodging of an FIR cannot be said to be defamatory, especially when the FIR has been lodged by the victim herself.”

Through this interlocutory application it was submitted that during the pendency of the case, lower court cancelled the bail bonds of the petitioners, which necessitated the filing of the instant interlocutory application.

The criminal miscellaneous petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was filed by the petitioners to quash the order taking cognizance by which cognizance of offence under Sections 228 (A)/500/501/34 of the Penal Code, 1860 was been taken by the Judicial Magistrate.

OP 2 had filed a complaint against the petitioners who happen to be the Publisher, Chief Editor, Senior Editor and Resident Editor of a local newspaper and also against the newspaper itself and its publisher alleging therein that a newspaper report was published in the said newspaper with the following heading:

The said report contained that the victim was married and there was some dispute in relation to their residential house. She was subjected to sexual assault.

Complainant lodged a criminal complaint against the petitioners who happen to be the Editor and other officials of the newspaper alleging therein that as a result of the reporting of the FIR and incident, the victim was being harassed daily and sustained mental torture hence the said report amounts to be defamatory in nature.

Lower court on taking cognizance of the above incident issued summons to the petitioners.

Analysis and Decision

Bench noted that the said newspaper as stated above published a report about a lady, who had filed an FIR alleging that she was sexually assaulted after being administered with some narcotics. Though the sum and substance of the FIR was mentioned in the report no identity disclosure of the victim was reported.

Further, the Court added that only because the petitioners were Publisher, Chief Editor, Senior Editor and Resident Editor of the newspaper, they were named as accused.

In the complaint submitted it was nowhere mentioned that the fact reported was false, rather it was admitted that the fact, which was reported was true and the FIR had already been lodged by the victim under Sections 376/328 of the IPC.

In view of the above, Court stated that on perusal of the newspaper report it was found that name of the victim was not disclosed and since nothing was found in the newspaper report, which could suggest that the identity was made known, no application of Section 228 A IPC was made out.

Hence the Court held that in the present case it was a news which was admitted to be not false, thus not amounting to the application of Section 500 or 501 of the Penal Code, 1860.

High Court allowed the present criminal miscellaneous petition in view of the above discussion. [Ashutosh Choubey v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 2484, decided on 24-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: The Division Bench of Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan, CJ and Arijit Banerjee, J., has taken suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report with regard to smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds.

Cruel Intrusion | Life of Flora and Fauna

The newspaper report in ‘Anandbazar Patrika’ exposed the tip of an iceberg regarding the cruel intrusion into the life of flora and fauna particularly the birds, in the wake of the winter season.

Court noticed the challenges to the beautiful fauna life owning to cruel, unethical and illegal activities, in violation of the Constitution and the laws, particularly those relating to animals and birds, were noticed.

In view of the above, requisite directions were sought to be issued by this Court.

It was also noticed that the facts affecting the environment and ecological balance would also be considered.

Counsel appearing for the High Court pointed out that birds are perceived as a symbol of freedom because of their ability to fly. For many centuries birds and their feathers have symbolized life, death, good and bad luck, the future, the past, and other signs.

The above-stated newspaper report touches the different aspects with regard to Constitutional and statutory provisions which deal with the animal life including the fauna population.

Sum and substance of the report:

“In order to effectively deal with the issue of smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds, the provisions of Schedule VII, List III [Concurrent List], Entry 17B of the Constitution of India which speaks of protection of wild animals and birds may be looked into. In addition thereto Articles 48A [Directive principles of State policy] and 51A (g) [Fundamental duties] inter alia speaks of protecting, improving and safeguarding wildlife, reading thus:

48A: The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

51A (g): to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”

“…The burning issue at the moment is trade in pet birds. It is very unfortunate that species, though protected, are still trafficked widely. A staggering number of birds are cruelly smuggled in various places, in appalling conditions. Birds are trafficked stuffed and suffocated in the piping of suitcases, PVC pipes. They are stuffed in socks, crammed in shoes and their beaks are taped shut. To catch wild parrots, the hunters take two of them as bait and puncture their eyes. These blind and wounded birds are then left on a sheet, where they cry out for help.”

Bench stated that thoughtful consideration needs to be given in the context of different statutory provisions which provide the support to the Constitutional salutory need to protect the birds and also to act promptly, vigorously, forcefully and effectively against the wrongdoers.

Further, the larger scale capturing of birds using weapons or otherwise and also bringing birds to captivity beyond those permissible under the law has also been disclosed in the suo motu petition.

“…migrating birds know no territorial limits and they would fly to better pastures depending upon the change of climate, availability of food and various other reasons including for their existence, procreation etc. This is part of the ecological management of the universe.”

Smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds

In Court’s opinion, the instant matter needs to be considered as the issue is necessary and expedient as the same concerns smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds and for their preservation and protection.

Hence, Bench stated that the instant matter shall stand registered and continue as Public Interest Litigation to address various issues, including the following:

“(i) smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds.

(ii) To fix the responsibility for such smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds.

(iii) To pass necessary directions upon the appropriate authorities to ensure that no smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds, take place and the violators are taken to task on a war footing.”

In view of the urgency of the matter, the same is to be posted on 08-12-2020.[Smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species of birds, In Re., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 2160, decided on 04-12-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon, JJ., took suo motu cognizance of a news paper report wherein human rights violation of the dead bodies in Delhi have been reported.

Bench took suo motu cognizance of the following report of the Delhi Edition newspaper:

  1.  that inside the COVID-19 Mortuary of Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi, there are 108 bodies; all 80 storage racks are full and there are 28 bodies on the floor, piled on top of each other;
  2. Lok Nayak Hospital is the largest dedicated COVID – 19 hospital in the city and its mortuary is the repository of bodies of those who died of the corona virus disease or are suspected to have died of it;
  3. on 26.05.2020, eight bodies were returned from Nigam Bodh Ghat, CNG Crematorium because the facility was not in a position to accept more bodies, as only two of the six furnaces were working;
  4. bodies of those who died 5 days ago, are yet to be cremated;
  5. the backlog in disposal of bodies has been caused owing to non-functioning of CNG furnaces at Nigam Bodh and Punjabi Bagh crematoriums;
  6. owing to the CNG furnaces not functioning, wood based cremation, which earlier was not deemed safe, has been permitted; inspite of the same being permitted, the personnel operating the said crematoriums are refusing to take part in wood based cremations;
  7. there is unrest at the Nigam Bodh Ghat; the staff and priests working there have stopped functioning.
 Bench on perusal of the above report stated that, 

We, as citizens of Delhi are pained at the aforesaid state of affairs and as Judges find the situation as reported and if true, to be highly dissatisfactory and violative of rights of the dead.

Court referred to a Supreme Court Judgment in Pt. Parmanand Katara, Advocate v. Union of India, (1995) 3 SCC 248, wherein it was held that,

right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is not only available to a living man but also to his body, after his death.

Thus, Court on observing the above mentioned violations of human rights took suo moto cognizance also by the present order brought the same to the notice of Chief Justice to take up the matter in public interest.

Copy of this order be also forwarded to Ramesh Singh Senior Standing Counsel Government of NCT of Delhi as well as to the Standing Counsels of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation, who are entrusted of various Cremation and burial grounds in Delhi, to enable them to obtain instructions and present the facts before this Court.

Matter to be listed on 29-05-2020. [Court on its own motion, In Re; 2020 SCC OnLine Del 610 , decided on 28-05-2020]