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Common Man Interested to Know Truth, Not Sections: SC in AAP vs. BJP Defamation Case

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Supreme Court Law Insider

Priyanka Singh

Published on: September 21, 2022 at 19:44 IST

The Supreme Court of India remarked on Tuesday that a common man is interested in knowing the truth against allegations, rather than the legal provisions.

The observation was made while hearing BJP MP Manoj Tiwari’s plea challenging the judgment of the Delhi High Court refusing the summoning order issued by a Magistrate in the defamation case filed by Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The defamation case was filed in 2019 against BJP leaders viz. MPs Manoj Tiwari, Hans Raj Hans, and Pravesh Verma, former MLA Manjinder Singh, MLA Vijender Gupta, and Spokesperson Harish Khurana – for allegedly making defamatory statements about Sisodia’s involvement in corruption of approximately Rs. 2000 Cr. in the construction of classrooms in Delhi’s Govt. schools.

The Apex Court’s bench of Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice V Ramasubramaniam addressed to the Tiwari’s Advocate, Venkatramani that,

“In case what you told was true … as members of the public; the Court wants to know the truth. (The Public) does not want to know difference between Sections 199 (2) and 199 (6) [of the CrPC], Common man is interested in knowing if this man has done what he has been accused of doing.”

On November 28th 2019, a summon was issued to Tiwari and the co-accused on the criminal complaint by the Additional City Metropolitan Magistrate, Rouse Avenue Courts.

A Single bench of the High Court rejected Tiwari’s plea challenging the summons on December 17th, 2020.

The High Court expressed the prima facie view that the statements spoken by the accused persons defamed the reputation of Sisodia and that the defence of Tiwari can be only considered at the trial stage.

As per Section 199(2) CrPC, a defamation complaint in respect of statements made against a Minister can be taken cognizance of only by a Court of Sessions, and only on a complaint made by the Public Prosecutor.

However, here, the complaint being filed by Sisodia invokes Section199(6) CrPC, that explains that the section doesn’t affect right of any person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed, to make a complaint before the Jurisdictional Magistrate.

The Senior Advocate further contended that, “He should have resorted to procedure under Section 199 (2). No compliant is maintainable before the Magistrate under Section 199 (6)….A public servant cannot bypass 199(2).”

He also submitted that the Section 237 CrPC is connected to Section 199(2) while explaining the court of the history of the provisions.

Regarding the Section 270, the Advocate said, “It is a special provision……As per the section, when state functionaries file complaints on defamation and later, if the complaint initiated is found to be false, then the latter must be compensated. There is an element of compensation, when there’s false accusation.”

To this, the Court asked Tiwari’s counsel, “So, there are three cases, First, you can say that the statements were taken out of context, second is, you stand by the statement, but argue that what you said is the truth, third, you say that I don’t fall under the other two categories and resort to technical defences. You belong to third category. So what about 1 and 2?”

To this, the Advocate stated that there is no denial regarding the statements being made, while he extensively relied on the judgment in the PC Joshi and Anr. vs. State of Uttar Pradesh case.

Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Sanghvi, appearing for Sisodia contended against the submissions supporting the right of his client to move to the Magistrate u/s 199(6), adding that, “He alleges a gothala of 2000 crores without a single piece of evidence. If he has the guts to state that, I have the guts to file a criminal complaint,” questioning the merits of the case.

He relied on the judgment made in the case of KK Mishra vs. State of MP, stating that the S. 199(2) provides for a special procedure for the initiation of prosecution of defamation committed against constitutional functionaries or public servants, and is a right preserved even for the category of persons mentioned under Section 199(2) & (6).

He averred that the Section 199(2) has two independent remedies for the defamation proceedings – first, a complaint before the Magistrate and second before a Court of Sessions.

Senior Advocate Pinky Anand made arguments yesterday.