–Report by Sanstuti Mishra
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and V Rama Subramaniam observed that a minister or public servant could file a private complaint alleging defamation and need not follow the particular procedure prescribed by Section 199(2) & (4) CrPC on 17th October 2022 in the case of MANOJ KUMAR TIWARI vs MANISH SISODIA & ORS.
Manish Sisodia herein filed a complaint under Section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 against six individuals, on the file of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Rouse Avenue Courts, New Delhi, alleging commission of the offences under Sections 499 and 500 read with Sections 34 and 35 of the Indian Penal Code.
The petitioner held that Manoj Tiwari, apprehended a Press Conference making false and defamatory statements as though he 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. Shri Vijender Gupta also tweeted defamatory content against Sisodia, and the person named Respondent No.6 in the complaint also made defamatory statements in his tweets.
Sisodia had accused three BJP leaders of defaming him through “insulting publications” it said were based on “fabricated” allegations. The deputy Chief minister necessitated an apology.
In November 2019, a trial court ordered the summons of BJP leaders and others accused of defamation in a criminal case filed by the Deputy CM of Delhi. BJP leaders sought relief from the Supreme Court, which denied it.
Shri R. Venkataramani and Ms Pinky Anand, learned senior counsel appearing for Manoj Tiwari and others argued that respondent No.1 should have followed the special procedure prescribed in Section 199(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as he happens to be a Minister of a Union Territory; they also put forward that the transcript of the tweets attributed to him was not accompanied by a valid certificate in terms of Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act. They argued that the tweets made by him per se do not make out a case of defamation in terms of Section 499 IPC, punishable under Section 500 IPC. The counsel referred to past judgements in P.C Joshi and Another vs. State of Uttar Pradesh; Subramanian Swamy vs. Union of India; and K.K. Mishra vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Another.
The bench concluded that on grounds that the history of the law commission report was not properly traced, the appeal by Vijender Gupta was allowed and on the other hand the appeal by Manoj Tiwari was dismissed.
“The special procedure is in addition to and not in derogation of the right that a public servant always has as an individual. He never lost his right merely because he became a public servant and merely because the allegations related to the official discharge of his duties”, the bench of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and V. Ramasubramanian said.
The court ruled that Shri Vijender Gupta’s appeal was successful only because the statements contained in his tweets were not considered defamatory within the meaning of Section 499 of the IPC.
The court explained that defamatory statements should be specific as an essential ingredient and not too vague or general. Hence statement made by Sri Vijender Gupta “your answer will disclose your scam” cannot be one, It cannot be intended to damage the reputation of Defendant Manish Sisodia.