21 Sep 2023 4:00 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash the defamation complaint lodged against IPS officer D Roopa by IAS Officer Rohini Sindhuri for allegedly publishing defamatory content against her. Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum rejected the argument made by Roopa that the allegations averred in the private complaint, the statements were made by her in her official capacity and therefore, in...
The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash the defamation complaint lodged against IPS officer D Roopa by IAS Officer Rohini Sindhuri for allegedly publishing defamatory content against her.
Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum rejected the argument made by Roopa that the allegations averred in the private complaint, the statements were made by her in her official capacity and therefore, in the absence of sanction, the Magistrate erred in entertaining the private complaint for the offence punishable under Section 499 of IPC.
“The Doctrine of state humanity covers all the acts performed by a public servant in exercise of function of the Government and not where acts are done by the public servant for her or his own benefit or pleasure and may be under the power of authority, such acts will not fall under the immunity principles.”
“The scope of operation of Section 197 of Cr.P.C. is restricted to only those acts or omissions which are done by a public servant in discharge of official duty.”
The case arises from a private complaint filed by the respondent IAS officer who alleged that the IPS officer Roopa had shared photos of her on Facebook and intentionally posted defamatory comments and allegations on a private Facebook account. Sindhuri also claimed that Roopa made statements to the media questioning her character and conduct, both professionally and personally.
The IAS officer asserted that these posts, comments, and statements were false, malicious, and intended to harm her reputation and thereby filed the complaint under Section 500 of IPC and sought Rs.1,00,00,000 as compensation.
The petitioner's counsel argued that the complaint failed to satisfy the essential elements of an offence under Section 499 IPC since her statements fall under exceptions 2, 3, and 9 of Section 499. It was further argued that the allegations against the petitioner were based on reports and publications already in the public domain and related to public questions, making them exempt from Section 499.
On the other hand, the respondent's counsel countered that there was sufficient prima facie material to proceed against the petitioner. They argued that the case should go to trial, as whether the statements fall under the exceptions or were made in good faith is a matter for a full-fledged trial to determine.
The court examined the prima facie material presented by the complainant and found that this material demonstrated that the petitioner was to face a criminal trial. It notes that whether the posts and statements fall under exceptions or were made in good faith is a matter for trial, and the burden is on the accused to demonstrate this.
"If the statements posted on a private account as well as the statements made before the print media are examined, I am more than satisfied that petitioner/accused is bound to face a criminal trial. The question as to whether the posts made on a face book account and the statements made before the print media fall under exceptions is a matter of trial. In order to claim good faith, the accused must show that before making the alleged imputation, she has made enquiry with due care and attention. In order to establish good faith and bonafides, it has to be seen that the circumstances under which imputations were made and published. It is only during full-fledged trial, it can be ascertained as to whether imputations were made with any malice.”
The Court added,
“The posts made on a private account of facebook and also comments and allegations on her face book page as well as before the print media are motivated and deliberate besides being totally false and mischievous only to belittle the complainant in the eyes of public at large and in particular before her superiors, colleagues and subordinates.”
It was also observed that the content prima facie demonstrated that it was per se defamatory and therefore, it could not hold a 'mini enquiry' at this juncture to decide the petitioner's defence.
Regarding the issue of sanction, the court found that the acts complained of by the complainant did not relate to the official duties of the petitioner as a public servant, and thus, the petitioner is not entitled to protection under Section 197 of Cr.P.C. The court concluded that this was not a case where interference by the court was warranted.
“The posts and statements given to the print media prima facie not being part of her official duties, I am of the view that she is not entitled for protection under Section 197 of Cr.P.C. The acts complained by the respondent/complainant by filing a private complaint prima facie do not indicate that these allegations hinge on the official duties as a public servant and therefore, petitioner cannot claim protection under Section 197 of Cr.P.C.”
The bench added,
“The above culled out portions which are part of a prima facie material which were produced by the respondent/complainant by recording sworn statement prima facie demonstrates that these imputations are obviously not made in discharge of her duty.”
It also highlighted that the burden of proof was on the accused to show that his/her case comes under any of the exceptions and that he/she is not liable for defamation. Therefore, having taken cognizance of prima facie material, the Court was not inclined to grant any reliefs as claimed in the petition.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the petitioner's request to quash the proceedings, stating that there was sufficient prima facie material to proceed to trial.
Case Title: D Roopa And Rohini Sindhuri
Case No: CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 4575 OF 2023
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 362
Date of Order: 21-08-2023
Appearance: Advocate Madhukhar M Deshpande for Petitioner.
Senior Advocate C.V.Nagesh for Advocate Raghavendra K for Respondent.
Click Here To Read/Download the Order