The Supreme Court today set aside a trial court order awarding a two-year jail to a Congress leader in a defamation case for alleging that Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had purportedly played a role in illegal recruitment of constables in the state's transport department.
The state government had filed a defamation case against K K Mishra, the Congress spokesperson in Madhya Pradesh, in June 2014 for allegedly "making defamatory and false statements against the chief minister with an intent to tarnish his image" under sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the IPC.
A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said 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.
A defamation case was filed after Mishra had alleged during a press conference on June 21, 2014 in Bhopal that 19 candidates from Gondia in Maharashtra were illegally recruited as constables in the Madhya Pradesh transport department following tests held by the state's Professional Examination Board (PEB), which is also known as 'Vyapam'.
The bench, also comprising justices R Banumathi and M M Shantanagoudar, said that the complaint against Mishra was not maintainable "on the very face of it".
It referred to the Code of Criminal Procedure provision relating to the procedure regarding initiation of prosecution for offence of defamation committed against constitutional functionaries and public servants and said that Mishra's alleged statements did not "have any reasonable connection with the discharge of public duties by or the office of the chief minister".
The court said, "Such statements may be defamatory, but then in the absence of a nexus between the same and the discharge of public duties of the office, the remedy under sections 199(2) and 199(4) of the CrPC will not be available."
In its order, the bench noted, "The appointment of persons from the area/place to which the wife of the chief minister belongs and the making of phone calls by the relatives of the chief minister have no reasonable nexus with the discharge of public duties by or the office of the chief minister."
Section 199(2) CrPC provides for a special procedure with regard to initiation of prosecution for offence of defamation committed against the constitutional functionaries and public servants.
The top court, which invoked its extraordinary jurisdiction, also said that the appeal pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court against the trial court order of November 17 last year shall also stand closed in terms of its verdict.
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