Inaccurate, Selective Reporting Of Court Proceedings Can Attract Offence Of Defamation: Madhya Pradesh HC [Read Order]

Inaccurate, Selective Reporting Of Court Proceedings Can Attract Offence Of Defamation: Madhya Pradesh HC [Read Order]

The court cannot turn its blind eye towards inaccurate and selective reporting of court proceedings, it said.

No offender can be permitted to publish a report which only refers to a version of the one side and completely omits that defence put up from the other side, the bench said.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court, in MP Mansinghka v Dainik Pratah Kaal, has observed that inaccurate and selective reporting of court proceedings is not protected by virtue of Exception 4 of Section 499 of Indian Penal Code.

The court made this observation while disposing a plea of a man who had challenged the magistrate court order refusing to issue process against the accused. The complaint before the magistrate court was that newspaper Dainik Pratah Kaal published a news item apparently indicated about the trial against him, and it also reported series of orders passed against him. His photograph was also published in the front page.

Justice SK Awasthi observed that the purpose of carving out an exception under Section 499 of IPC was for the benefit of the general public that they are aware about the court proceedings which will create an impression that the courts are in control of the proceedings and if such impression is created to boast the confidence in the minds of general public about the majesty of law, then the same can outweigh the right of reputation of an individual.

The court observed: “While reporting a Court proceeding, which is yet to be taken to its logical end, no offender can be permitted to publish a report which only refers to a version of the one side and completely omits that defence put up from the other side. The manner in which the reporting of the Court proceeding has been done, it is clear that the purpose is to report the version of the one party which will tarnish the reputation of the other side and such type of selective reporting is permitted to be carried out then the Courts will be undermining the rights of the other party which is to lead life with dignity.”

The court further observed that the instant report cannot be held to be covered under Exception 4 of Section 499 of IPC. The court said: “It give rise to the situation where a frivolous case is filed against a reputed citizen of the country and thereafter the other party selectively mentions about the pleadings made in the Court against such person even though the other party has not been given any opportunity to clarify on the pleadings reported in the news but still the Courts will have to give such reporting the benefit of Exception 4 of Section 499 of IPC. I have no hesitation in concluding that such state of affairs will abridge the right of any individual to live with dignity and reputation in the society and Exception 4 will become a shield for those, who have dented the basic and sacrosanct right of an individual.”

The court also clarified that a report, which substantially deals with contentions of both the parties even though the author and newspaper records its own opinion about the entire controversy, cannot be held to be a punishable behaviour under Section 499 of IPC.

Read the Report Here