3 July 2023 10:18 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Monday, issued notice in a plea assailing the Delhi High Court’s order whereby it had quashed a summoning order issued by a trial court in 2017 against The Wire’s Editor and Deputy Editor in a criminal defamation case filed by former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Amita Singh.The complaint was filed by Singh in 2016 wherein she has referred to an...
The Supreme Court, on Monday, issued notice in a plea assailing the Delhi High Court’s order whereby it had quashed a summoning order issued by a trial court in 2017 against The Wire’s Editor and Deputy Editor in a criminal defamation case filed by former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Amita Singh.
The complaint was filed by Singh in 2016 wherein she has referred to an article written by the Wire’s Deputy Editor Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprastha in April 2016 titled “Dossier Call JNU "Den of Organised Sex Racket"; Students, Professors Allege Hate Campaign”. Singh had claimed that the publication imputed that she prepared a dossier allegedly depicting JNU as a “Den of Organised Sex Racket”. The complaint alleged that the Editor did not verify the authenticity of the Dossier and used it for monetary benefits of its magazine, defaming Singh’s reputation. The summoning order was passed against the Wire’s Editor Siddharth Bhatia and Deputy Editor Ajoy Ashirwad by a Delhi metropolitan court in 2017.
In March 2023, the Delhi High Court quashed the summoning order, following which Singh approached the Supreme Court.
A Bench comprising Justice SK Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia also issued notice to JNU to examine the limited aspect if the dossier was submitted, and if so then to what effect and by whom.
“We would also like to add JNU through the Vice Chancellor to verify whether any dossier was submitted at all to the university and if so to what effect and by whom. Notice be also issued to JNU limited to the aforesaid aspect.”
The notice was issued to the University because of the ambiguity regarding whether the dossier was submitted by Singh herself. In this regard, Justice Kaul said, “Did you submit the dossier?..Defamation would be if something is not submitted by you and it is attributed to you.”
The Advocate for Singh initially submitted in the affirmative, but later clarified that Singh had not submitted the dossier. He argued that, on the contrary, she refutes the content of the dossier. He added, “Without verifying the dossier they are publishing it in the newspaper”.
Justice Kaul remarked, “Your presentation before us is causing the confusion”.
The Judge reiterated, “Did you or did you not submit the dossier.”
The Counsel responded, “My statement can be recorded. I don't know anything about the dossier.”
The Single Judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani had taken note of the criminal complaint and opined that there is nothing therein that could be considered to be defamatory against Singh. The High Court had said that there is nothing in the complaint which suggests that the article says anything against Singh, much less anything defamatory. Considering that the publication was not before the Magistrate in any admissible form, the High Court had said that while the trial court correctly appreciated the position of law, it erroneously proceeded to pass the impugned order on the basis of oral evidence in substitution of the electronic record. It was observed that mere interpretation, inferences and conclusions drawn by Singh’s witnesses cannot be made the basis for summoning the two individuals.
[Case Title: Amita Singh v. The Wire Through its Editor Siddharth Bhatia And Anr. SLP(Crl) No. 6146/2023]
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