Accusations levelled before a lawful authority in good faith does not amount to defamation: Supreme Court

Accusations levelled before a lawful authority in good faith does not amount to defamation: Supreme Court

[Kishore Balkrishna Nand v. State of Maharashtra and Another] The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that allegations made in a complaint against a person in good faith to those who have legal authority over that person do not constitute the crime of defamation.

A Division Bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra was hearing an appeal against a 2009 Bombay High Court decision that had refused to invalidate the magistrate’s issuance of process in an alleged defamation case.

The order stated, “Exception 8 to Section 499 clearly indicates that it is not defamation to present in good faith an accusation against a person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with regard to the subject of the accusation.”

The appellant before the court had filed a written complaint with the Sub-District Magistrate alleging that the respondent had encroached upon some land and set up a shop. On the basis of this complaint, the respondent filed a defamation lawsuit in which the appellant was issued a summons.

On the appellant’s request, the magistrate recalled the summons. In reviewing the’recall’ order, the sessions court overturned it. This decision was overturned on appeal by the Bombay High Court, which was filed by the appellant.

The appellant, indignant, petitioned the supreme court.

In its analysis, the apex court cited Exception 8 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the appellant for the alleged crime of defamation.

The court was also of the opinion, after reviewing the allegations contained in the appellant’s complaint, that no case of defamation has been established against the appellant.

While granting the appeal, the Court quashed the High Court’s order and the magistrate’s summons issued to the appellant.

Attorney Anshuman Ashok represented the appellant. Aaditya Aniruddha Pande, an attorney, represented the State.

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