Patkar NGO issued defamatory press note against KVIC Chief, court told in defamation case

A witness in a criminal defamation case against NBA activist Medha Patkar told a Delhi Court Tuesday that her NGO had issued a libellous press note against KVIC Chairperson V K Saxena, a charge denied by her earlier.

Nilesh Sachdev, an architect who appeared as a witness to support the complaint filed by Saxena, placed before the court a copy of the press release issued by the Narmada Bacahao Andolan (NBA) on November 24, 2000.

Saxena alleged that the NBA's press release contained defamatory remarks about him and through it spread the falsehood that he made donation to NGO's support group and a news item, based on it, was published in a web portal.

However, Patkar in her deposition in November last year denied issuing any kind of press release which allegedly defamed Saxena.

Her claim was Tuesday refuted by Sachdev, who told Metropolitan Magistrate Nishant Garg that "in order to depose before the court, I tried to verify the truth of allegations for which I opened narmada.org where I found the press note issued by NBA dated November 24, 2000.

"I tried to verify the authenticity of narmada.org and I found that web site has been created by NAPM (National Alliance for Peoples Movement) of which accused Patkar is the convener."

The submission was, however, opposed by Patkar's advocate Sridevi Panikar, who said new evidence cannot be submitted at this stage of the case.

The court however took the papers submitted by Sachdev on record and posted the matter for October 10 for his cross-examination, after Panikar sought time to cross examine the witness.

Patkar and Saxena, the Khadi Village and Industries Commission (KVIC) chief, have been embroiled in a legal battle since 2000 after she filed a suit against him for publishing advertisements against her and the NBA. Saxena was then the head of an Ahmedabad-based NGO, National Council for Civil Liberties.

Saxena, in turn, had filed two cases against her for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement against him.

The court had earlier framed defamation charges against Patkar in a case lodged against her by Saxena in a complaint for allegedly defaming him on a TV news channel in 2006.

The court had framed the notice against the activist under sections 499/500 (defamation) of the IPC and fixed the matter for recording of Saxena's evidence. It entails a punishment of up to two years.

The notice was framed in one of the defamation cases filed against Patkar by Saxena in which she had allegedly made a statement in April 2006 on a panel discussion on a news channel claiming that Saxena had received civil contracts from Gujarat-based Sardar Sarovar Nigam, which manages the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The allegation was denied by Saxena.

Soon after the defamation complaint was lodged by Saxena against Patkar, Sardar Sarovar Nigam Ltd, in a letter to the Gujarat Police, had said that "V K Saxena, neither in his personal capacity, nor as President of National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), ever applied to the Nigam for the award of any civil contract and/or for any supply contract in the past, nor the Nigam has ever given any civil or any other contract to him or to his NGO-- NCCL."

The court has separated the three ongoing defamation cases -- one filed by Patkar and two by Saxena, considering that these were pending for long and needed to be expedited.

The activist, in her complaint, has alleged that she was defamed by an advertisement published by Saxena in November 2000 and the imputations made in the publication affected her reputation and fame and caused her immense harm.

The court had on April 9 begun the cross- examination of Patkar in this case during which she had denied having deliberately concealed facts to tarnish Saxena's image.

Patkar and Saxena had earlier refused the suggestion of the court to settle the matter through mediation.