Sunday, December 4, 2022

Allahabad High Court quashes summons in defamation complaint case

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The Allahabad High Court has recently quashed the summoning order in a defamation complaint case and observed that being close to someone in a natural or normal human relationship and to form an illicit relationship are two different things.

An application has been filed to quash the summoning order dated 27.06.2007 as well as the Complaint under Section 500 IPC, pending in the court of Civil Judge (Jr. Div.)-I, Muzaffarnagar.

Submission of Counsel for the applicant is twofold. First, it has been submitted that the statements that form the subject matter of allegation of defamation, were recorded in the course of a criminal investigation. In that case, the applicant is listed as a prosecution witness against the complainant. The said case was pending on the date of institution of the complaint. Therefore, allegations of defamation may not arise at such a preliminary stage.

By way of second limb of that submission, it has been submitted that in any case, the statement made by the witness in the course of investigation never constitute the offence of defamation. Then, it has been submitted that the affidavits that allegedly form the subject matter of the complaint have not been brought on record. Though the applicant had clearly stated in the affidavit filed in support of the application that those affidavits were not available to him yet, the complainant has not brought the same on record along with his counter affidavit.

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Referring to the statement of the applicant recorded, it is submitted that the applicant had only stated that the complainant had a close relationship with a woman. He nowhere stated that the complainant  had formed an illicit relationship with a woman, the counsel for the applicant added.

On the other hand, Additional Government Advocate contended that all pleas would be available to the applicant at the trial and no interference is warranted at this stage.

A single-judge bench of Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh, having heard counsel for the parties and having perused the record, noted that in the first place, it is undisputed that the statement made by the applicant was in the course of an inquiry by the police. That case was pending on the date of complaint being lodged. For that reason, the application appears to be premature in the peculiar facts of the present case.

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Even otherwise, without expressing any definite opinion if the statement on oath alleged to have been made by the applicant would constitute the ingredients of defamation as such statement was made during a lawful proceeding, the copy of the statement recorded under Section 161 Cr.P.C. does appear to suggest that the applicant had only stated that the complainant had a close relationship with a woman. In itself that may never be enough to constitute the offence of defamation, the Court held.

The High Court observed that the statement may be factually wrong but it can never be read as an imputation with intent to harm the reputation of the complainant. The fact that the woman  and complainant  belong to the opposite gender, would not be relevant for the purpose of completion of the ingredients of the offence alleged.

“Whether the applicant had made further or other imputation in the affidavit relied upon in the complaint is not clear inasmuch as though the applicant had stated he did not have available copies of such affidavits, the complainant has not helped the matter by not bringing the same on record though he has filed the counter affidavit”

-the Court said in conclusion while quashing a summoning order in a defamation complaint case.

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