Gauhati HC Declines to Quash Criminal Defamation Case Filed by Assam’s CM Himanta Biswa Against Manish Sisodia

Manish & Hemant Law Insider

Savvy Thakur

Published on: November 8, 2022 at 19:58 IST

The Gauhati High Court has refused to quash a criminal defamation case filed by Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma against the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia.

The Case in Brief

Delhi Dy CM Manish Sisodia allegedly made defamatory statements against Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma at a press conference on June 4, 2022, alleging that Sarma was involved in corruption by awarding a government contract to his wife’s company for the purchase of PPE kits during the first COVID wave.

Sarma served as the State’s Health Minister at the time.

He also said that while other people bought PPE kits at a rate of Rs. 600 per kit, the CM’s wife’s company bought PPE kits at a rate of Rs. 990 per kit.

Following that, Kamrup filed a complaint petition with the CJM Court on behalf of Assam’s Chief Minister Sarma, claiming that Sisodia had defamed him by making defamatory statements in a press conference in New Delhi alleging corruption.

The statement of Sarma and the statements of the two witnesses examined under Section 202 CrPC by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Guwahati, Kamrup (M).

By order dated August 20, 2022, the P.C. determined that there was sufficient cause to proceed against the petitioner under Sections 499 and 500 CrPC.

Following that, Sisodia received a summons to appear in the proceeding.

Sisodia moved to the High Court in an effort to halt those very proceedings.

The primary argument made by Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia was that because he was the Deputy Chief Minister of the State of NCT of Delhi at the time of the press conference, a sanction should have been obtained in accordance with Section 197 CrPC to prosecute him, but nothing was done.

In addition, it was argued that Sisodia had merely reproduced the internet-accessible materials from various news and web portals in his press conference.

In contrast, CM Sarma argues that his wife, Rinki Bhuyan Sarma, had provided over 1400 PPE kits without incurring any costs by utilizing the Corporate Social Responsibility Fund of her company.

As a result, there was no question that the Government of Assam was obligated to make any payment to the Company of the respondent’s wife no.2.

Additionally, it was argued that Sisodia proceeded to address the press conference, making corruption allegations against Sarma, despite Rinki Bhuyan’s clarification statement on her Twitter account regarding the entire controversy.

The High Court’s Observations

At the outset, the Court determined that Sisodia had not been able to demonstrate that by holding a press conference, he was either performing a government act or task or a public servant function.

According to the Court’s decision, Section 197 CrPC did not require any prior sanction to file a complaint petition against the petitioner for allegedly committing defamation.

The Court concluded after reading the press conference transcript that Sisodia had not been able to demonstrate that the statement he made in the press conference was not more than the contents of news articles, that he did not add “sugar and spice,” or that he did not attempt to sensationalize the content of the news articles in question.

Keep in mind that the petitioner held his press conference on June 4, 2022.

However, the respondent says no.2, on 01.06.2022, he and his wife provided their respective explanations regarding the free supply of 1485 PPE kits—described as “about 1500 PPE kits”—as part of the company’s CSR activity.

As a result, the petitioner has not been able to establish that he was unaware of the respondent’s tweets’ existence. The Court said.

“The Court added that it found no grounds to quash the case against Sisodia, and it found no grounds to quash the case against Sisodia. 2 or his wife, or that before making a statement in the press conference..”

“….he had made inquiry as any reasonable man would do to ascertain the correctness about what he was going to state in his press conference, held after tweets of the respondent no.2 and his wife were made in the social media domain of the internet,”

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