In a landmark judgment on law relating to Defamation, the Supreme Court, closed criminal proceedings against chief spokesperson of Indian National Congress for having made defamatory allegations against the Chief Minister. The reason for closure was that the alleged defamatory statements made have no reasonable connection with the discharge of public duties by the Chief Minister and there has been no scrutiny by him of the materials on which the prosecution under Section 199(2) and 199(4) was launched
The same was held by the Apex Court in the matter of K.K Mishra Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr. [Criminal Appeal No. 547 of 2018 arising out of SLP (Criminal) No. 6064 of 2017] decided on 13.04.2018.
The Bench in the present matter was considering an appeal filed against a High Court order that refused to quash criminal proceeding instituted under Section 199(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 alleging commission of offences under Sections 499 and 500, IPC against the CM of Madhya Pradesh.
The Bench observed whilst perusing the alleged defamatory statements made by the accused that none of the said statements, even if admitted to have been made, can be said to have any reasonable connection with the discharge of public duties by or the office of the Hon’ble Chief Minister.
It further observed that “The appointment of persons from the area/place to which the wife of the Hon’ble Chief Minister belongs and the making of phone calls by the relatives of the Hon’ble Chief Minister have no reasonable nexus with the discharge of public duties by or the office of the Hon’ble Chief Minister”.
The Apex Court held that “in the absence of a nexus between the defamatory statements and the discharge of public duties of the office, the remedy under Section 199(2) and 199(4) Cr.P.C. will not be available. It is the remedy saved by the provisions of sub-section (6) of Section 199 Cr.P.C. i.e. a complaint by the Hon’ble Chief Minister before the ordinary Court i.e. the Court of Magistrate which would be available and could have been resorted to”.
The court, also referring to Subramanian Swamy vs. Union of India observed that Sections 199(2) and 199(4) Cr.P.C provides an inbuilt safeguard which requires the public prosecutor to scan and be satisfied with the materials on the basis of which a complaint for defamation is to be filed by him acting as the Public Prosecutor and also indicated that in the present case, the complaint was filed with a lot of haste and that the public prosecutor may not have applied his mind to the materials placed before him.