Activist Priya Pillai joins the battle for Decriminalization of Defamation before SC; FMP pleads for Practice Guidelines for defamation Trials
Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the criminal defamation provisions under the Indian Penal Code. She has challenged the filing of criminal defamation complaint filed against her by Essar Power MP Ltd in a Madhya Pradesh court.
The matter was mentioned by Advocate Karuna Nundy and Advocate Avi Singh before a Bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant who however did not issue any notice to Essar but instead tagged the case along with the connected cases pursuant to a request to that effect made by Priya Pillai’s counsel. Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanian will argue the matter Tomorrow. [Read the Petition here].
In a related development, the Foundation for Media Professionals have sought the issuance of certain directions/frame safeguards under Article 142 of the Constitution of India with respect to criminal complaints under Section 499 of the IPC to prevent abuse of the process of law. They have requested the SC to direct magistrate to take certain steps before issuance of summons in a criminal complaint under Section 499/500 IPC and when dealing with such complaints . The directions sought by the Foundation for Media Professionals include:
- The MM must verify the registration of the publication(book/newspaper/paper) in question under the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 ;a complaint u/s 499/500 would lie only before the Court having territorial jurisdiction over the place where the publication is registered/declaration is filed u/s 5 PRB Act. For purposes of territorial jurisdiction only the place of “first” publication must be considered.
- For on-line publications and web-editions of publications, the place where the registered office of the company owning the publication is situate, would be the proper place for deciding territorial jurisdiction for a complaint u/s 499/500 IPC.
- If none of the directions/safeguards as regards territorial jurisdiction stated above applies (such as in the case of individual bloggers), then the other legal options as to territorial jurisdiction u/ss 177-179 CrPC shall be available to a complainant.
- For a publication registered under the Press and Registration of Books Act, the MM must verify as to who is/are the author, editor, publisher and printer of the publication ;and, unless there are specific allegations against any other person, only persons named as author,editor, publisher and printer of the publication (the last 3 as per declarations made under the PRB Act) may be summoned in the criminal complaint.
- The MM must also prima-facie satisfy himself as regards the allegation of factual inaccuracy or falsity (if any) of any matter contained in any offending publication (unless such fact is to the exclusive knowledge of the accused) by calling upon the complainant to produce evidence and material to show such factual inaccuracy/falsity, in exercise of powers under Section 165 Evidence Act and Section 311 CrPC.
- Grant of permanent exemption from personal appearance to the accused u/s 205 CrPC must be the norm, even without requiring initial appearance for bail ; and personal presence of the accused be compelled only when necessary to record evidence.
The submissions are made by Anup J. Bhambani, Sr. Adv. who is briefed by Apar Gupta, Dushyant Arora and Mudrika Bansal advocates.
Here is the Full text of Arguments by Anup J. Bhambani, Sr. Adv
Read the petition here.