This Case Analysis is written by Siddhi P. Nagwekar, a student of Karnataka State Law University’s Law School.
(2009) 109 DRJ 357
Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra
Sections 406, 498A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad is a distinguished professor of Sociology at Jawahar Nehru University. A woman named Durdanda Zameer filed a complaint before the Crime Against Women (CAW) Cell allegedly making defamatory statements against him. The excerpts of the complaint, where his name was recorded as ‘Imtiaz Ahmad Ansari’ according to the plaintiff amounted to his defamation and entitled him to damages. He contends that he has been portrayed as a perpetrator of dowry demand and in his name, Ansari has been deliberately added since ‘Ansaris’ belong to lower community viz ‘Julaha’. He claimed that he was a renowned social psychologist and because of the assertions made by the defendant in her complaint to CAW Cell and other authorities, his reputation received a severe dent in academic circles and among his colleagues and also towards the mammoth work that he has done for the betterment of the society in general. The plaintiff claimed damages to the tune of Rs.20 lac from the defendant.
Issues before the Court
Whether the excerpts of the complaint made by Durdanda Zameer to the CAW caused defamation of the plaintiff?
Ratio of the Case
Under the law of defamation, the test of defamatory nature of a statement is its tendency to incite an adverse opinion or feeling of other persons towards the Plaintiff. A statement is to be judged by the standard of the ordinary, right-thinking members of the society at the relevant time. The words must have resulted in the Plaintiff to be shunned or evaded or regarded with the feeling of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear, dislike or disesteem or to convey an imputation to him or disparaging him or his office, profession, calling, trade or business. The defamation is a wrong done by a person to another’s reputation.
Justice S.N. Dhingra observed that the plaintiff’s submissions that adding of caste ‘Ansari’ against his name was per se defamatory is very strange. If a professor of sociology has a notion and thought that ‘Ansari’ was a caste of lower-class since it represents ‘Julaha’ community, I can only take pity upon such ‘highly respected’ and ‘qualified professors’
If it is stated that a Hungama was created by many from in-laws of the defendant, including the plaintiff, that does not mean that the defendant made defamatory imputations against the plaintiff or the defendant made a statement to cause an adverse opinion or hatred feelings of other persons towards the plaintiff. As has already been observed above the statement is to be judged by the standard of an ordinary person. The alleged words must have resulted in the plaintiff to be shunned or evaded or inculcated a feeling of hatred and condemn. The plaintiff continues to be the professor in JNU and he continues to a known voice at different TV Channels. It is not the case that people have abandoned him or boycotted him because of this imputation. The plaintiff has not named a single person who had changed his opinion after filing of the complaint by the defendant.
Moreover, the defendant had a right to make complaints of her grievances to the authorities. Whenever a person makes a complaint against someone to the lawful authorities and in that complaint, he makes imputations against the person complained of, it cannot be considered that the person has publicized or publicly made defamatory averments against a person.
Judgment of the Court
In view of the facts presented, and the applicable law considered, the Court did not find any cause of action arising against the plaintiff for defamation. The suit of the Plaintiff was thus dismissed.