13 Dec 2022 11:42 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, closed the plea assailing order of the Sikkim High Court refusing to quash summons issued by a Gangtok magistrate against Managing Editor, Managing Director and Joint Managing Editor of Malayalam newspaper, Mathrubhumi in defamation case filed by Santiago Martin in 2020.Martin had filed the complaint under Sections 499, 500, 501, 502 and 120B of the Indian...
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, closed the plea assailing order of the Sikkim High Court refusing to quash summons issued by a Gangtok magistrate against Managing Editor, Managing Director and Joint Managing Editor of Malayalam newspaper, Mathrubhumi in defamation case filed by Santiago Martin in 2020.
Martin had filed the complaint under Sections 499, 500, 501, 502 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code aggrieved by the publication of a defamatory statement - "lottery mafia like Santiago Martin will not be allowed to operate in Kerala" which was said by the then Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac.
He accused the publication and its management of conspiring to publish articles in the daily newspaper and its online version with the sole intention of causing damage to his name and reputation. Besides Mathrubhumi company, its Managing Editor, the Managing Director and the Joint Managing Editor have also been made defendants in the private complaint.
The Sikkim High Court had dismissed the petition filed by The Mathrubhumi Printing and Publication Company Limited and others, stating there was no ground whatsoever to interfere with the order passed by the trial court.The High Court had rejected the argument that the editors could not be proceeded against without the complainant having made out a prima facie case that they had at least personal knowledge about the contents of the item before it was published.
Mathrubhumi had contended that the news item was published by them in a bona fide manner, believing the version of the Minister to be true and was a report in respect of the opinion of a public servant, regarding a public question and public policy and therefore privileged by Section 499 of the IPC.
On the last occasion the Apex Court expressed displeasure for the usage of the term 'Mafia' by Malayalam newspaper, Mathrubhumi in one of its news articles as a naming attribute for a man who is in the business of lotteries.
On Tuesday, initially when the matter was taken up by a Bench Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka, Senior Advocate, Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan representing the newspaper submitted that a clarification has been published. Senior Advocate, Mr. Aryama Sundaram, along with Advocate Rohini Musa, appearing for Martin stated, "This is an apology for an apology. This is not fair." Justice Kaul agreed that it was indeed 'an apology for the sake of an apology'.
As Mr. Vishwanathan proceeded to submit on merits, Justice Kaul reckoned -
"Last time it was argued for quite some time. We gave you (Mathrubhumi) a way out."
Realising that the Bench was inclined that a settlement is reached between the parties and give the fact that Bench had indicated that it would not grant stay of the order of the High Court, Mr. Vishwanathan sought for a passover.
When the matter was taken up after being passed over, both the parties agreed to a certain statement that is to be published in the Mathrubhumi newspaper.
Mr. Sundaram submitted, "Let him say apology and not clarification."
Justice Kaul suggested, "To my mind, publish it as a statement."
As the parties agreed to settle the matter the Bench recorded in the order -
"…the two sides have thought it fit to bring the present dispute to an end and save both of them unnecessary harassment and legal expenses. The petitioners have agreed to publish the following statement, "...".
Needless to say the petitioner has submitted that they will publish the aforesaid statement with the same font size and prominence as the news article was published…We close the current proceedings…with the direction that the publication will take place within 7 days."
At the request of Mr. Sundaram, the Bench made it abundantly clear that the litigtaion between the newspaper, including its official and Martin, comes to an end with the present order. However, the proceedings pertaining to the complaint against the Finance Minister of Kerala, Mr. Thomas Issac will not be impacted by the present order.
"Needless to say, this is the end of the lis so far as the two parties are concerned and not accused 1(Finance Minister of Kerala,Thomas Issac)."
The Bench further noted that this settlement would foreclose all disputes between the concerned parties. Upon publication of the statement agreed upon by the parties, the complaint against the newspaper and its officials would be quashed.
"Forecloses any dispute inter-se these parties. On publication of the statement the complaint against the aforesaid petitions will stand quashed."
[Case Title: P.V. Chandran And Ors. v. Santiago Martin And Ors. SLP(Crl) No. 11187/2022]