Court to decide if disapproval of views taken in the matters of administration amounts to defamation

Supreme Court: In the matter where apart from the constitutional validity of the law on criminal defamation under Section 500 IPC and Section 199 CrPC, but also the concept of fair criticism, discernment and dissection of activities of the State Government and disapproval of views taken in the matters of administration and policy decisions, it was vehemently argued by the petitioner that the office of the Public Prosecutor has its own independence; and the Public Prosecutor has been conferred an independent role under the provisions of the CrPC and he cannot become a post office in the hands of the authorities to file prosecutions for criminal defamation without scrutinizing whether a case is made out or not.

Mr. G.S. Mani, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the citizenry right to criticize cannot be atrophied by constant launching of criminal prosecution for defamation on each and every issue to silence the critics because when criticism in a vibrant democracy in this manner is crippled, the democracy which is best defined as the “Government of the People, by the People, for the People” would lose its cherished values.

Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Solicitor General submitted that apart from the Public Prosecutor who has a definitive role under Section 199(2) of the CrPC, the sanctioning authority also has a significant and sacred role under sub-section (4) of the said provision and, therefore, a complaint cannot be filed in a routine manner to harass a citizen.

The bench of Dipak Misra and C.Nagappan, JJ, after hearing the arguments from both sides,  issued notice to the respondents i.e. the Public prosecutor and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu among others and listed the matter on 24.08.2016. [A. VIJAYAKANTH v. PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, DHARMAPURI DISTRICT, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 708, Order Dt. 15.07.2016]

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