In a relief to Madhya Pradesh Congress leader K.K. Mishra, the Supreme Court on Friday quashed a defamation case filed against him by the state for making defamatory remarks against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice R. Banumathi, and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudhar set aside the November 17, 2017, order of a trial court in Bhopal which had sentenced Mishra to two years in jail in the defamation case, while holding that the "very initiation of the prosecution has been found by us to be untenable in law".
"On the conclusions that have been reached by us... the conviction of the accused appellant (Mishra) and the sentence imposed would not have any legs to stand. The very initiation of the prosecution has been found by us to be untenable in law," said the bench.
"Merely because the trial is over and has ended in the conviction of the appellant and the matter is presently pending before the High Court in appeal should not come in the way of our interdicting the same," said the bench while invoked its extraordinary jurisdiction and closed the appeal pending before the High Court against the trial court verdict.
A trial court in Bhopal had convicted and sentenced Mishra, the Congress' chief spokesperson in the state, to two years jail in the defamation case for levelling charges against Chouhan in the transport constable recruitment scam which was part of the Vyapam scam.
He had approached the apex court challenging the MP High Court order of dismissing his plea against the the sanction granted by the state government to file defamation complaint and thereafter charges framed against him in the case.
The apex court bench in its order took into note the sequence of event and said that in the present case, the press meet was convened by Mishra on June 21, 2014 and the government accorded sanction to the public prosecutor to file complaint under the Indian Penal Code's Section 500 against him on June 24, 2014.
"As seen from the records, the complaint was filed by the public prosecutor against Mishra on the very same day i.e. June 24,2014. The haste with which the complaint was filed prima facie indicates that the public prosecutor may not have applied his mind to the materials placed before him as held in Bairam Muralidhar case. We, therefore, without hesitation, take the view that the complaint is not maintainable on the very face of it and would deserve our interference," it added.
The apex court said that it was clear that the public prosecutor, who had filed the defamation complaint, had not done any scrutiny of materials on the basis of which the sanction to prosecute Mishra was obtained from the competent authority.
"The public prosecutor in terms of the statutory scheme under the Criminal Procedure Code plays an important role. He is supposed to be an independent person and apply his mind to the materials placed before him," it added.
In Bhopal, the state government had filed the defamation case against Mishra in June 2014 for "making defamatory and false statements against the Chief Minister with an intent to tarnish his image" under sections 499 and 500 of the IPC.
The case was filed after Mishra alleged during a press conference in Bhopal that 19 candidates from Gondia in Maharashtra, where Chouhan's wife Sadhna Singh hails from, were illegally recruited as constables in the Madhya Pradesh Transport Department following tests held by the state's Professional Examination Board (PEB), known popularly by its old Hindi acronym Vyapam.
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