The Bombay High Court recently observed that the journalists do not enjoy some kind of special privilege or have a greater freedom than others to make imputations or allegations, sufficient to ruin the reputation of a citizen.
They are in no better position than any other person, Justice Mangesh S. Patil observed.
The court made this observation while dismissing a petition filed by Journalists seeking to quash a defamation case in respect of a news item published by them in their news paper 'Lokmat'. A social worker had filed the defamation complaint alleging that his reputation was lowered after the newspaper published a news item stating that he was taken to police station in relation to an incident of attempted human sacrifice.
The High Court observed that the publication of such item which has the potential of putting the complainant to disrepute and to lower him in the esteems of the others is prima facie sufficient to constitute defamation as defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and the doors cannot be shut at the threshold. However, the bench quashed the case against the Chairman and Chief Editor observing that he could not have any direct role and responsibility in publishing the news item. As against others, the prosecution was ordered to be continued.
Referring to the judgment in Sewakram Sobhani vs R.K. Karanjia AIR 1981 SC 1514, the court observed:
Journalist do not enjoy some kind of special privilege or have a greater freedom than others to make imputations or allegations, sufficient to ruin the reputation of a citizen. They are in no better position than any other person. Truth of an allegation does not permit a justification under First exception unless it is proved to be in public good. The question whether or not it was for public good is a question of fact which needs to be proved like any other relevant fact.
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