Chaini Parwani –
Published On: October 14, 2021 at 16:51 IST
The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has overruled a defamation complaint against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and journalist Aditya Raj Kaul.
Justice Sanjay Dhar while quashing the defamation proceedings pending before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar stated “Having carefully watched the news programme contained in the compact disk attached to the complaint, I do not find any imputation or any allegation having emanated from the presenters of the news programme. The anchors and the presenters only repeatedly referred to the letter of Shri Khalid Jahangir and read out contents.”
Further the Court directed that the news anchor frequently made it clear that their information was based on the letter and hence took to considerable care while telecasting the programme.
Furthermore, the Court stated that it cannot be said that the accused considered to injure the reputation of the complainant.
Naeem Akhter, a senior leader of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former member of J&K Legislative Assembly imposed a charge of defamation against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, in year 2018 under Section 499 and 500 IPC before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar.
It was highlighted in the complaint that on July 4, 2018, Republic TV broadcast a defamatory and hostile news statement against the complainant following a letter dated June 21, 2018, written by one Khalid Jahangir, member of Bhartiya Janta Party and former VC of J&K Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), to the Governor.
As reported by the complainant, regardless the letter did not highlight name of any person, yet Goswami, while telecasting about the said letter, knowingly and intentionally highlighted the name of complainant in association with the allegations leveled in the letter of Jahangir.
Counsel representing the Petitioners, Senior Advocate RA Jan along with M/S Rajat Pradhan & Aswad Attar Advocates in their Petition before the High Court, confronted the complaint as well as the proceedings emerging from it on the grounds that the allegations of corruption against the complainant were not made by the petitioners but were made by Jahangir in his letter addressed to the Governor.
Furthermore, the Counsel argued that the letter in question was already in public domain at the relevant time, hence, offence complained of was not made out against the petitioners.
The Court stated that it would be an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of press guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, if the publication of allegations/ charges concerning public duties of public figure reported in a letter which is in public domain is Categorized as defamation.
The Court also stated that the Magistrate, while directing process against the petitioners, did not pay attention to the whole material before him, the order of issuing process against the accused/petitioners is, therefore, not defendable in law, the Court said overruling the proceedings.
To read the Judgement: