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Supreme Court Stays Criminal Defamation Proceedings Against Aroon Purie, Former India Today Chief Editor

Srishti Ojha
18 Aug 2021 5:39 AM GMT
Supreme Court Stays Criminal Defamation Proceedings Against Aroon Purie, Former India Today Chief Editor
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the criminal defamation proceedings against Aroon Purie, founder-director of India Today group and former Editor-in-Chief of India Today publications.A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose issued notice on the special leave petition filed by Purie against the refusal of the Delhi High Court...

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the criminal defamation proceedings against Aroon Purie, founder-director of India Today group and former Editor-in-Chief of India Today publications.

A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose issued notice on the special leave petition filed by Purie against the refusal of the Delhi High Court to quash the defamation case against him, and also issued an interim order of stay.

When the matter was taken, the CJI asked Senior Advocate Amit Desai, who was appearing for Purie, why he can't apply for discharge before the criminal court.

In reply, Desai submitted that the Supreme Court has held in the KM Mathew case that there is no presumption against a Chief Editor.  He argued that the complainant himself has said that he is not aware of the role of a Chief Editor and that there was no particular allegation against Purie.

Following that, the bench issued notice and passed the stay order.

The special leave petition was filed against the refusal of the Delhi High Court to  quash a criminal defamation complaint and summoning order against Aroon Purie in connection with an article published in India Today magazine in 2007.

The news article 'Mission Misconduct' reported about the allegations against the then Indian deputy consul general in Edinburgh, O.P. Bhola.

 The Article reported that "allegations of soliciting sexual favour leading to a probe which revealed financial irregularities and fudging of bills. Consequently, the official is back in India and is facing disciplinary action".

Before the High Court, Arun Poorie contended that as per Section 7 of Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, normally an editor, printer can only be prosecuted. As he is the editor-in-chief, he could never be prosecuted. Rejecting this contention, Justice Yogesh Khanna observed:

The argument per Section 7 of Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 normally an editor can only be prosecuted cannot be adhered to. In K.M.Mathew vs. K.A.Abrahem and Ors. AIR 2002 SC 2989, wherein the complainant has alleged either Managing Editor, Chief Editor or Resident Editor had knowledge and were responsible for publishing defamatory matters in respect of newspaper publication and in none of these cases the Editor had come forward and pleaded guilty to the effect he was the person responsible for selecting the alleged defamatory matter published, the Supreme Court held it was a matter of evidence in each case and if the complaint is allowed to proceed only against the editor whose name is printed in the newspaper against whom there is a statutory presumption under Section 7 of the Act and in case such editor succeeds in proving that he was not the editor having control over the selection of alleged libelous matter published in the newspaper, the complainant would be left without any remedy left to redress the arguments against the real culprits.

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