Madras High Court Refuses To Quash Defamation Case Against Union Minister And Former Tamil Nadu BJP Head L Murugan

Upasana Sajeev

6 Sep 2023 7:19 AM GMT

  • Madras High Court Refuses To Quash Defamation Case Against Union Minister And Former Tamil Nadu BJP Head L Murugan

    The Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to quash a defamation case filed against Union Minister Dr. L Murugan by DMK mouthpiece Murasoli Trust. The court also directed the Special Court to complete the trial within a period of three months. The trust had filed a private complaint against the Minister under Section 499 and Section 500 of the IPC, for the remarks made by him in a press...

    The Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to quash a defamation case filed against Union Minister Dr. L Murugan by DMK mouthpiece Murasoli Trust. The court also directed the Special Court to complete the trial within a period of three months.

    The trust had filed a private complaint against the Minister under Section 499 and Section 500 of the IPC, for the remarks made by him in a press meet. It was alleged that the Minister's statements gave an impression that the Trust was being run on Panchami land (land that is distributed for Dalits in Tamil Nadu).

    While refusing to quash the proceedings pending before the Special Court, Justice Anand Venkatesh noted that in cases of defamation, the statements had to be tested only from the point of view of common prudent man and that the statements put forward by the Minister would be understood as questioning the right and title of the property.

    β€œIn an offence of defamation, the statements have to be tested only from the point of view of a common prudent man, who comes across the defamatory statements made. Even if the petitioner thinks that there was no imputation and that he had merely put a question, such statements will be understood by others as if the petitioner is repeatedly questioning the right and title of the property, over which, the Murasoli Trust is functioning and he also wants to drive home the point that it is functioning in the panchami land. That is how the respondent has understood the statements made by the petitioner and even in the complaint, the allegations have been made to the effect that many others had understood it in the same manner and started making enquiries with the respondent,” the court observed.

    Being prima facie satisfied that the three limbs to constitute the offence of defamation had been satisfied, the court added that it could not go into the merits of the case or the disputed question of facts at this stage.

    The Minister had contended that since the alleged defamatory statement was not made against the trust, it could not have filed a defamation case as they came to the scene much later after the purchase of the property in 2022, while the complaint was made in 2021. It was also argued that the statements, even if taken as it is, do not have any defamatory imputations to satisfy the requirement of Section 499 IPC.

    On the other hand, the Trust submitted that the Minister, who was the Vice Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Caste, was already aware of an order of the High Court asking the Commission not to adjudicate upon the right and title over the property and the list of documents based on which the Trust was holding title in the property. It was submitted that even after this, the Minister had made the alleged statements giving an impression that the Trust was being run on Panchami Land. The trust also submitted that the so-called purchase of the property in the year 2022 had no role to play in deciding the present quashing petition.

    Though the Minister claimed that he had only given his honest opinion on the issue and that he had a right to make such statements under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the court said that the same was to be decided during the trial since it involved appreciation of facts. Thus, the court gave liberty to the Minister to raise all the grounds before the Trial Court and dismissed his quash petition.

    Case Title: Dr. L Murugan v Murasoli Trust rep by its Trustee R.S. Bharathi

    Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 255


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