J&K&L HC quashed defamation complaint filed against media-persons
The Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court, while hearing a defamation complaint filed against Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV Arnab Goswami and journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, made an observation that reporting of allegations levied against official duties of public figures does not amount to defamation.
The complaint had been filed by Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) senior leader, Naeem Akhtar, in the year 2018 wherein it had been alleged that the Republic TV had broadcasted a news segment revolving around Khalid Jahangir’s letter which did not include complainant’s name yet the Editor-in-Chief had intentionally and deliberately mentioned his name while reporting about the same.
The letter included allegations of corruption and favoritism, and the complainant alleged that the anchors and journalist of Republic TV repeatedly mentioned his name in connection to the allegations raised in the letter.
The bench denied the allegations and stressed upon the duty of press to bring before the viewers’ news of day-to-day events relating to those public figures whose actions affect the public at large.
Furthermore, the bench observed that in cases where journalist publishes true report in respect of a public figure and their public functions, which already remain in public domain, it could not be said to be an intentional act to harm the reputation of such public figure.
The bench stated that publication of charges which concern public duties of a public figure and have already been recorded in a letter which is also in public domain, would amount to an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of press guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
It also highlighted that mens rea, a condition precedent to constitute the offence of defamation, had been absent in order to prove the intention or knowledge on part of accused to harm the reputation of complainant.
The bench therefore, quashed the proceedings and the complaint on the ground that no emanating offence had been disclosed against the petitioners.
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