Defamation| By mere levelling of allegation without any substance, presumption cannot be drawn that it was in discharge of public duty: Chhattisgarh HC

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Bench comprising of Goutam Bhaduri, J. allowed an appeal concerning the defamatory publication made against two doctors in a newspaper.

In the present case, it has been stated that the appeal was filed against the judgment and decree passed by Additional District Judge, Manendragarh, wherein suit for damages of Rs 1,00,000 was dismissed for alleging defamatory publication in newspaper on the ground that justification of truth exists on the published news item and after dismissal, this appeal value was reduced to Rs 50,000 for damages.

Facts of the case are that, the two doctors namely Dr PP.K. Niyogi and Dr C.P. Karan have acquired reputation and name by their work of extending different medical help to people. Defendant Praveen Nishi, was a Publisher, Printer & Chief Editor of newspaper namely Ghoomta Darpan, who had published a piece of news that the doctors are committing dacoity with the poor in a piece of news. Further, it was published that the plaintiffs without any reason used to give the injection to the patients and recover Rs 40-50/- fees along with tests, sonography etc. Therefore, plaintiffs stated because of the said publication, plaintiff’s image was tarnished.

Defendant had averred that the publication of news was made in the public interest and in all bonafide without any intention of damaging the reputation of plaintiffs. Court framed three issues and dismissed the suit.

As stated by Mr Nishikant Sinha & Mr Shakti Raj Sinha, Advocates for the appellant, the plaintiffs refused to give an advertisement to the newspaper of the defendant, as revenge, false publication of the news was made without any proof thereof. Further stated that, the evidence categorically shows that the damage was done to the reputation to which truth was absent.

“Mere levelling the allegation against the doctor without any substance or proof, the presumption cannot be drawn that it was in the discharge of a public duty.”

Reliance was placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in Sewakram Sobhani v. R.K. Karanjia, Chief Editor, Weekly Blitz; (1981) 3 SCC 208, in which it was held that:

“The truth of an allegation does not permit a justification under the first exception unless it is proved to be in the public good. Question whether or not it was for public good is a question of fact like any other relevant fact in issue.”

Thus, the High Court stated that the aforesaid principle would go to show that the said privilege which has been claimed by the defendant as the editor cannot be accepted consequently it can be completely insulated by presumption or justification or truth. The defence which has been raised by the respondent that it was in public interest in a defamatory damages suit may not be squarely applicable and accepted. Besides that, there was no evidence on record that such public interest exists. The evidence is an opinion.

“Justification or truth never existed for which the suit was dismissed by the Court below.”

The appeal was allowed and suit decreed for Rs 50,000 as against damages. [P.K. Niyogi v. Praveen Nishi, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 680, decided on 03-12-2018]

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