Himachal Pradesh High Court on Tuesday quashed the summons issued in criminal defamation proceedings instituted against Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, Mr. Anirudha Bahal and Mr. Ashutosh for broadcasting of a sting operation in 2012.
Justice T.S. Chauhan allowed their Petitions, holding that merely by virtue of them being the Managing Director, Editor-in-Chief, Editor and Founder Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN, they would not be held vicariously liable for acts of their employees.
The proceedings against the trio had been initiated by Maulana Mumtaz Ahmed Quasmi, who had based his complaint on a news item published by CNN-IBN-7, wherein he was allegedly caught taking bribe from Haj pilgrims on camera.
The Court, however, opined that merely impleading the Editor/ Director/ Managing Director “would not be sufficient to infer the culpability of that person”. It drew a distinction between civil liability and criminal liability, and observed that in the case at hand, the complaint should have made specific allegations against the Petitioners.
The mere fact of them holding their positions would not make them vicariously liable for their employees, it observed, explaining that they would be held liable only when they are responsible for making/ publishing of such content.
“Thus, on the basis and in the light of discussion made above, considering the facts that in the complaint as also statements recorded under section 202 of the Code, there is no specific allegations with regard to the role played by each of the petitioners in making or publication of the defamatory material against the complaint, the issue of process against them by virtue of they being office holders / position holders in the Broadcasting Company/ news channel that is by invoking the principle of vicarious liability is neither legally justifiable nor sustainable in law,” Justice Chauhan, therefore, ruled.