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Letter Written To Husband's Superior In Good Faith Intimating Him About Criminal Complaint Lodged U/S 498A CrPC Does Not Constitute Criminal Defamation: Calcutta HC

Aaratrika Bhaumik
25 March 2022 1:46 PM GMT
Letter Written To Husbands Superior In Good Faith Intimating Him About Criminal Complaint Lodged U/S 498A CrPC Does Not Constitute Criminal Defamation: Calcutta HC
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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday observed that writing a letter to the husband's superior at work in good faith intimating him about a criminal case lodged against the husband for inflicting torture would not amount to criminal defamation under Section 499 of the IPC. In the instant case, the wife (petitioner) had written a letter dated May 24, 1997 to the Manager, Indian Overseas...

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday observed that writing a letter to the husband's superior at work in good faith intimating him about a criminal case lodged against the husband for inflicting torture would not amount to criminal defamation under Section 499 of the IPC. 

In the instant case, the wife (petitioner) had written a letter dated May 24, 1997 to the Manager, Indian Overseas Bank intimating him that her husband who was the Assistant Manager of Overseas Bank had tortured her and driven her out of the matrimonial home and that a criminal case under Section 498A CrPC (cruelty) had been initiated against him following which he had been arrested and subsequently released on bail. The petitioner had enclosed a certified copy of the order and had requested the Manager to take such action as may be deemed fit under the facts and circumstances.

Justice Ananda Kumar Mukherjee noted that the petitioner in her letter had made representation of facts which were consistent with the incidents relating to filling of cases for alleged torture. He further opined that there had been no 'embellishment of facts' and that no coercive action had been sought by the petitioner against her husband vide the letter. 

"There remains little to be said that the letter in question was a statement of fact instead of any imputation to harm the reputation of the opposite party", the Court observed. 

Justice Mukherjee further noted that there was matrimonial discord between the petitioner and her husband to such an extent that the wife was compelled to leave her husband's home with her minor daughter.

Opining that it is obvious for the petitioner to take recourse to writing such a letter to her husband's superiors under such oppressive conditions, the Court remarked further, 

"This incident itself would heap insult and indignation upon a married lady having a child. Under such oppressive conditions it is only obvious that the petitioner would take recourse to writing such letter to Official Heads of the opposite party. The petitioner wife cannot be faulted for taking recourse to law of the land for protection of herself and her daughter. She should have her right to ventilate her grievance as her human dignity was at peril."

Opining further that the the ingredients of offence of defamation are not attracted by the contents of the letter as they are covered by the Eighth Exception laid down under Section 499 IPC, the Court underscored,

"..preferring an accusation against any person to any of the persons who have lawful authority over that person, would not amount to defamation. In the instant case the petitioner wife made accusation against the opposite party before his superior in office in good faith and consistent to her accusation made in the petition of complaint. Therefore, the same would not amount to any defamation as the same is excepted in the 8th exception."

It was also noted that any representation made by a person in good faith for protecting his/her own interest would not amount to defamation as the Ninth Exception under Section 499 IPC protects imputations made in good faith by person for protection of his or other's interests. 

The Court further observed that the Fifth Exception under Section 499 IPC stipulates that a representation would not amount to defamation if an opinion is expressed on the merits of any case in good faith which has been decided by a Court in respect of the conduct of a person.

"In the instant case on the basis of the material available in the Case Diary the bail of the opposite party was rejected by the court. Therefore, subsequent acquittal of the opposite party cannot undo his arrest and his released on bail by the court, therefore such representation when made in the letter would be covered by the 5th exception of section 499 of IPC", the Court remarked further. 

It was further taken into consideration that the letter had been addressed to the husband's superiors on May 24, 1997 whereas the complaint had been filed by the husband against the petitioner for criminal defamation only on June 8, 2009 that is twelve long years after the cause of action arose.

It was further held that the complaint filed under Section 200 CrPC by the husband against the petitioner alleging the offence of criminal defamation is barred by the law of limitation under Section 468 CrPC. Pursuant to Section 469(1)(a) of the CrPC, the period of limitation for taking cognizance in an offence under section 500 of IPC is three years from the date of its initiation.

Accordingly, the Court observed that case initiated by the husband is barred by limitation as the date of offence should be construed from the date of issuing the letter, that is on May 24, 1997. Placing reliance on the Allahabad High Court decision in Naresh Chand Jain Vs. State of U.P and others and on the Calcutta High Court judgment in Rabindra Nath Pal v. Ratikanta Paul & others the Court opined that a case for the offence of defamation should be filed within three years from the date of publication. 

Thus, the Court set aside the complaint lodged by the husband against the petitioner for the offence of defamation by observing that the same is barred by limitation and thus a continuation of such proceedings would lead to an abuse of the process of Court.

Case Title: Malancha Mohinta v. Dipak Mohinta

Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 91 

Click Here To Read/Download Order 


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