Jammu & Kashmir High Court Dismisses Petition Seeking to Quash Defamation Complaint Against Former CM Omar Abdullah

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On 15th June 2020, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul heard the case of Nayeem Akhtar Andrabi vs The Public Prosecutor and another, via video-conferencing. The Court directed the parties to appear before Trial Court on 20th July 2020.

Facts of the Case

On 25th August 2010, the petitioner and respondent no. 2 held a press conference at the office of J&K People’s Democratic Party. They introduced Mr Omar Abdullah, the then Chief Minister of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. Members of the party, including legislators, and other members of the public and media, attended the press conference. The public prosecutor alleged that both petitioner and respondent no.2 made defamatory and false allegations against Mr Omar Abdullah. They did it with an intention to defame him.

The Public Prosecutor filed a complaint against the petitioner and respondent no. 2 for the same. He filed the complaint under Section 499 and Section 500 of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), 1932 of erstwhile State of J&K.

The Trial Court after taking the allegations into account, issued process vide order on 29-09-2010. In order to secure the presence of the accused, it issued a bailable warrant of Rs. 20,000 each. The petitioner is aggrieved of the complaint and proceedings initiated by the Trial Court. Thus, he filed a petition in this Court seeking to quash the complaint.

Contentions of the Petitioner

The allegations made by the petitioner, even if taken at their face value, do not prima facie constitute any offence. The petitioner said everything in good faith. Thus, it falls under the Eighth Exception of Section 499. He is alleged to have made an allegation against the former Chief Minister about pilferage of certain priceless antiques from the State Toshakhana. He relied upon the news published in Daily Newspaper Greater Kashmir on 26-08-2010. The criminal proceedings made against the petitioner are mala fide. The ulterior motive of the complaint is to wreak vengeance on the petitioner. There is no evidence that the petitioner made any defamatory imputations. Hence, the Court may allow this petition. The petitioner seeks the Court to quash the complaint.

Contentions of the Respondent

The complainant made a triable case and at this juncture the court cannot go into veracity of evidence. The petitioner made the defamatory allegations in a Press Conference. The legislators, public, and media persons were present at the same. This proves their efforts to bring down the reputation of Mr. Omar Abdullah. The publication of the Press Conference portrays defamation. Therefore, the petitioner cannot contend that there is no evidence. The petitioner must prove that he made the allegations in good faith. The same is not proved by the petitioner.

Court’s Analysis

Section 499 of RPC deals with defamation. If the allegations are false, it can affect the reputation of a person. Thus, defamation is injurious to reputation. In this case, there is some substance in the allegations and material exists to substantiate the complicity of the petitioner. Nevertheless, the Court cannot quash the proceedings due to mala fide intention. Under Section 482 Cr.P.C, the High Court has the power to quash the criminal proceedings. Further, to exercise this power, all the steps laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Rajiv Thapar v Madan Lal Kapoor, 2013 (3). The Court should follow SCC 330. The High Court can exercise its powers under Section 482 of Cr. P.C. only on the satisfaction of the following –
-That order passed under the Code would be rendered ineffective,

– That the process of any court would be abused or that ends of justice would not be secured,

-That in an event the aggrieved party is being unnecessarily harassed.

None of the above points satisfy the Court.

Judgement 

The petitioner has failed to make a case for the Court to exercise inherent powers under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore, the complaint or the criminal proceedings initiated by the Trial Court is not quashed. The petition is meritless. Thus, the Court dismissed petition. The Court directed the parties to appear before Trial Court on 20th July 2020.


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