Sunday, January 29, 2023

Aroon Purie defamation case: Supreme Court grants relief to India Today Chairperson over news article against Indian diplomat in Edinburgh

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The Supreme Court on Monday quashed the defamation criminal complaint filed against founder-director of India Today Aroon Purie over a news article published in India Today magazine in 2007 against the then Indian deputy consul general in Edinburgh, O.P. Bhola.

The Bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M. Trivedi granted relief to Purie, but refused to quash the case against the author of news article ‘Mission Misconduct’.

Appearing for Purie, Senior Advocate K.V. Vishwanathan contended that he was the Editor-in-Chief at the time of publication and could not be held liable considering the decision in the case of KM Mathew vs State Of Kerala.

CJI Lalit then observed that the government officials and the Editor may be granted relief, however, it refused to give the same to the correspondent.

Earlier in April, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna in the Delhi High Court had dismissed Purie’s plea in April this year and also refused to quash the summoning orders against him. 
Purie had contended before the High Court that at the time of publication of the news item, the allegation of sexual harassment and financial irregularity had already been made against complainant Bhola and steps for disciplinary proceedings had also been initiated against him. 

He had added that the news item only reported a fact, which was already on public record.

The news item had alleged that the diplomat had faced disciplinary action after returning to India, on charges of sexual harassment, financial irregularities and fudging of bills.

The Trial Court had also summoned Purie in the case, after a complaint was lodged against him.

As per Purie, the Trial Court order was liable to be quashed on the ground of violation of Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure {mandatory enquiry into where the accused was residing}, as well as Section 196(2) {previous sanction of the Central government or of the State government or of the District Magistrate for certain offences} and 197 {prosecution of judges and public servants} of CrPC.

The respondent had contended that India Today went ahead with the publication of an unsubstantiated and unverified defamatory story, which was splashed all over the world through the medium of internet without any basis.

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