Observing that the rights of press persons are not higher than that of the common man but the responsibilities are higher, a Delhi court has said press does not enjoy any special privileges to comment, criticize or even to investigate the facts of any case.
Additional District Judge Raj Kapoor said so while deciding a suit for damages filed by a north Delhi resident, a stock broker, against the editor of magazine and one other for writing defamatory articles against him and also sending letters to the then minister of Cooperatives in 2007 using defamatory language against him.
The complainant and the two defendants were the residents of the same housing society and the articles pertained to alleged illegal construction activities in the society.
While directing the editor and the second defendant to pay symbolic damages of Rs 30,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively to the complainant, the judge held that the defamatory articles published in the magazine were not privileged communication.
Journalists don’t enjoy any special privilege
“It is a settled law that journalists do not enjoy any special privilege and have no greater freedom than others to make any imputations or allegations, sufficient to ruin the reputation of a citizen. Further journalists are in no better position than any other person,” said ADJ Kapoor.
“The press does not enjoy any exclusive rights under our Constitution apart from those enjoyed by a citizen as a concomitant of the freedom of speech and rights against unlawful deprivation of life and liberty guaranteed under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution. The press enjoys no special privileges to comment, criticize or even to investigate the facts of any case.
No higher rights, rather higher responsibilities
The court went on to observe that, “The rights of press persons are not higher than that of the common man. In fact the responsibilities of a journalist are higher”.
“The common man has limited means and reach in which he acts. A journalist on the other hand has a wider reach and power to disseminate information and therefore such power has the potential to cause irreparable damage to a matter under enquiry in a court of law or in a given case has greater propensity to scandalize or diminute the dignity, majesty or reputation of an individual or an institution”, he said.
In the present case, while the plaintiff alleged that the defendants had written defamatory articles against him in the magazine in 2007, he had added that on him sending a legal notice, they distributed the copies of the same in the housing society.
He also added that they even wrote letters to the government authorities and then Cooperatives Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan using defamatory language against him going to the extent of calling him a confused and a mentally disturbed person, short tempered, hard litigant, highly vociferous etc.