Defamation suit stayed in Patna HC over Baba Ramdev’s book

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Patna High Court had ruled in favour of the petitioner and stayed an order of the lower court in a defamation suit filed by Mr. Amit  Kumar, a resident of Vaishali, Bihar who alleged that the petitioner had published a book defaming the famous Yoga guru and television personality, Baba Ramdev.

Facts of the case

A controversial book had been authored by Journalist Priyanka Pathak Narain during July, 2017. The author and also the publisher claimed that it was a well written report of Yoga guru Baba Ramdev after one-to-one interviews with Baba himself and many of his associates and acquaintances. But Baba Ramdev through his lawyer in Delhi High Court had challenged those contentions and managed to obtain an interim stay order on the sale and publication of the book titled – Godman To Tycoon on May 10, 2018.

Advocates Raj Shekhar Rao and Satyajit Sarna representing the publisher Juggernaut Books impressed upon the Delhi High Court that many of the information put forth in the book has been public knowledge since 2007. They also pointed out that “the book was a work of serious journalism. It was the product of over fifty interviews, many of them taped, with Ramdev and key players in his life, including close aides and family members.” But the arguments put forward by Baba Ramdev about the book tarnishing his reputation find the Court ruling in his favour.

In Bihar, Vaishali resident Mr. Amit  Kumar, filed a defamation suit against the publisher Juggernaut Books alleging that the book was defamatory in nature and it was targeting Baba Ramdev’s image as well as hurting the sentiments of people of one religious faith.

Court ruling

The case was heard by Honourable Justice Ashwani  Kumar  Singh at Patna High Court where Ashish  Giri,  learned counsel for the petitioner stated that the lower court could not have taken cognizance of this defamation suit under Section 199(1) of Cr.P.C. as the imputation alleged in this case was not directed at the complainant Mr. Amit  Kumar but at Yoga guru Baba Ramdev who has not filed this case. Thus, the lower court taking cognizance of the case punishable under Section 500, 501 and 502 of IPC is impossible as well.

Advocate Giri further submitted that without prior sanctions from either the State Government or the Central Government the lower court had taken cognizance under Section 196(1)(a) of Cr.P.C. for an offence punishable under Section 295A of IPC which is ultra vires in this particular case. Justice Ashwani  Kumar  Singh acknowledged the arguments put forward by Advocate Giri on behalf of the petitioner Juggernaut Books and ruled the lower court’s taking cognizance of the case was bad in law and stayed all the proceedings undergoing in this case at the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate II, Hajipur, Vaishali till information pertaining to this case is brought into the notice of the Bihar state government who was also named as a respondent in this case.

Impact of the judgment

This is not the first time that controversy surrounding Baba Ramdev came to light as previously he was embroiled in many such situations, sometimes personally and at other times because of his enterprises. But this book publication and the subsequent fallout further points to the fact that filing of high profile defamation suits in India are on the rise. The suit filed in Patna High Court in this instance had been rightly stayed as the case lacks merit as defamation described under Section 499 of the IPC clearly delineate that the person whose reputation was supposedly under attack needs to file the suit personally and not through an agency. Celebrities in a bid to hide their non-glamorous and at times controversial pasts and to avoid the paparazzi had taken to Court over the publication of books, articles, interviews and even photographs. Such cases, although sometimes have merits but most of the times take up valuable time of the Court and delay the legal process to justice for common man seeking redress to their grievances. It is high time and a necessity therefore that such cases are dealt with speedily without any hindrances to other court proceedings.

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