The Madras High Court on Thursday
quashed the defamation cases filed against various media organisations by the Tamil Nadu government, saying the law concerned was meant for a laudable object in real cases of necessity and cannot be misused to settle scores.
The court made the observations on a batch of petitions by various newspapers and magazines, including The Hindu, challenging the defamation cases registered against them.
Allowing the petitions, Justice Abdul Quddhose said, "in all the cases which are the subject matter of this Courts consideration, the State has not applied its mind while granting sanction for prosecution as even as per their respective sanction orders.
There is no reference to any defamation of the State which is the essence of any defamation complaint filed under Section 199(2) of Cr.P.C."
Several newspapers have challenged the launching of prosecution of criminal defamation against them under Section 499 IPC and under Section 199(2) Cr.P.C by the state government.
Noting that the criminal defamation law under section 499 and 500 IPC should be sparingly used by the government, the judge said, "An individual or a public servant/constitutional functionary can be impulsive but not the State, which will have to show utmost restraint and maturity in filing criminal defamation cases."
If the State becomes an impulsive prosecutor in criminal defamation matters that too in an era of social media where there are scores of abusive contents made against public figures, the lower court would get clogged with innumerable matters.
The court also observed that the state government was like a parent for all citizens as far as defamation law was concerned.
"It was normal for parents to face vituperative insults from their children.. Despite those insults, parents don't disown their children quite easily. They always have the hope that their children will mend themselves in the near future," the judge said.
"Only in rarest of rare cases when the character and behavior of their children is irretrievably broken down and irreconcilable, the parents disown them," he added.
Passing orders on the validity of G.Os sanctioning prosecution and the consequent complaints pending before the sessions court, Justice Quddhose said, "In the cases on hand when there is no allegation that the State has been defamed, there is no question of prosecution under section 199(2) Cr.P.C.."
"... this court is empowered to interfere at this stage and the instant sanction orders will have to be quashed as there is total non application of mind by the State as without any allegation of any defamation of the State, sanction orders have been issued," it said.
The public prosecutor as well as the Sessions court judge in cases, where cognizance has already been taken have also not applied their mind independently as the core essence of prosecution under section 199 (2) Cr.P.C. namely "Defamation of the state" has not been satisfied as seen from the sanction orders.
"On this score alone, all the Government Orders and the consequential complaints for criminal defamation under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. will have to fail," he said.
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