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Bombay High Court quashes FIR against Solapur Journalist

Procedure was not followed as per CrPC., for a public servant wishing to prosecute someone for defamation, says HC

Sabrangindia 09 May 2022

Bombay HC

On May 6, 2022 a Division Bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice S. M. Modak quashed the First Information Report (FIR) against Journalist Amol Kashinath Vyavhare who had been printing defamatory and alarming reports against public servants.

Vyavahare had been charged for offences under IPC sections 500 (defamation), 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 502 (selling or offering for sale any printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter), 505 (2) (public mischief- Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code, for two newspaper articles published in Dainik Pudhari in 2017 and 2018, about the rift between the staff of the Office of Deputy Police Commissioner on one hand and staff attached to Crime Branch of Solapur Unit.

According to the Complainant, Purnima Chaugule Shrirangi the reports were defamatory and also tried to create an alarm amongst the members of the society to the effect that whether Police of Solapur Commissionerate area are in a position to protect their interest in case of need and whether they are competent to maintain law and order. The HC Bench had reserved its Judgment on April 27, 2022.

Earlier on September 19, 2018 the Court presided by Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre had passed an Order in the same case, directing the Investigating Officer to not file charge-sheet without prior permission of this Court.

Brief Background of the case

The two news articles were published in Dainik Pudhari, in the editions dated October 8, 2017 and May 22, 2018. These two articles were reported by Amol Kashinath Vyavhare. These reports were:

In the news report dated 8 October 2017, Vyavahare reported an incident that took place when there was a raid on Sawan Hotel, Solapur by the police attached to the City Crime Branch. At that time, one police official in uniform was heavily drunk in that hotel. He was caught on tape and the video was circulated on social media. On account of that, the news further says that there was a tussle between the Office of Deputy Commissioner of Police and the police attached to the Crime Branch.

Similarly, the news article published on 22 May 2018 which said that “the police staff attached to the Crime Branch Office are not following the instructions given by the Senior Officers of Crime Branch, but they are having a loyalty to Deputy Commissioner of Police.”

On June 1, 2018, the Deputy Commissioner of Police-Crime Smt. Pournima Chaugule Shringi lodged a complaint against Amol Vyavhare with Sadar Bazar Police Station Solapur City for these two articles mentioned above under Sections 505 (2), 500, 501 and 502, registered as First Information Report (FIR) no. 0390 0f 2018.

On July 6, 2018 the reporter, Amol Vyavhare approached the High Court of Bombay for quashing of the FIR by registering a Criminal Writ Petition no. 2954 of 2018 (Amol Kashinath Vyavhare v/s. Purnima Chaugule Shrirangi & Ors.).

Arguments by both sides

Learned Advocate of the Petitioner, Anvil S. Kalekar had made following submissions:

(i)         If the averments in the FIR and two news articles are perused, it does not disclose an offense under section 505(2) of Indian Penal Code. According to him, the publication must lead to spreading a rumour or alarming news and it must pertain to a religion, race, language or community.

(ii)        There is a prescribed procedure if Criminal Law has to be set in motion for an offense under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code pertaining to defamation of public servant. The same has not been followed.

To support his argument, he relied upon two Judgments, Bilal Ahmad Kaloo Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (to invoke charges under section 505) and KK Mishra Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (procedure to follow by public servant to file a case for defamation)

Learned Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP), Shri Yagnik representing the Solapur Police submitted that for a publication to fall under the provisions of Indian Penal Code of Section 505 (2), need not pertain to two religions and even if it pertains to the employees of one Establishment, still, it would be an offence under the said provision. In support of his argument, he relied upon a Judgment in a case of Amish Devgan v/s. Union of India (to invoke charges under section 505).

Court’s Observations and Judgment

On May 6, 2022 the Bombay High Court Division Bench of Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice S. M. Modak pronounced its judgment, and held, “It is also true that it will create an alarm amongst the members of the society to the effect that whether Police of Solapur Commissionerate area are in a position to protect their interest in case of need and whether they are competent to maintain law and order.” The Bench further noted that the same would not be sufficient to attract offence under 505(2) of the IPC.

The Court observed that both the Judgments on which both the sides had relied upon – Amish Devgan and Bilal Ahmad Kaloo, had a mention of the religion aspect. The Bench further stated, “The provisions of sub-section are very clear. Alarming news or rumour must relate to the subjects including relation, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste, community. The content of those two news articles does not deal with any of the subject referred to above.”

The Court thus observed, “We are of the considered opinion that the police have wrongly invoked the provisions of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code to the facts before us. It is not warranted. It does not satisfy all ingredients of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code. Hence, the application of that Section has to be struck down.”

The Bench further stated about defamation charges, “Without going into issue whether news article caused defamation or not, it is true that procedure neither under Section 199(2) nor under Section 199(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is followed. Instead of that first informant has taken circuitous route and filed a police complaint. It is not warranted.”

The Bench while concluding its Judgment stated, “So FIR pertaining to offences under Sections 500, 501 and 502 of the Indian Penal Code also does also not stand scrutiny of law. The Petitioner-accused can certainly make out a case under exception to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. This can be possible only when the prosecution is initiated validly by filing a proper complaint. This has not happened in this case. Hence, the entire FIR consisting of offences u/s 500, 501, 502, 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code needs to be quashed.”

The entire judgment may be read here: 

 

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Bombay High Court quashes FIR against Solapur Journalist

Procedure was not followed as per CrPC., for a public servant wishing to prosecute someone for defamation, says HC

Bombay HC

On May 6, 2022 a Division Bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice S. M. Modak quashed the First Information Report (FIR) against Journalist Amol Kashinath Vyavhare who had been printing defamatory and alarming reports against public servants.

Vyavahare had been charged for offences under IPC sections 500 (defamation), 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 502 (selling or offering for sale any printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter), 505 (2) (public mischief- Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code, for two newspaper articles published in Dainik Pudhari in 2017 and 2018, about the rift between the staff of the Office of Deputy Police Commissioner on one hand and staff attached to Crime Branch of Solapur Unit.

According to the Complainant, Purnima Chaugule Shrirangi the reports were defamatory and also tried to create an alarm amongst the members of the society to the effect that whether Police of Solapur Commissionerate area are in a position to protect their interest in case of need and whether they are competent to maintain law and order. The HC Bench had reserved its Judgment on April 27, 2022.

Earlier on September 19, 2018 the Court presided by Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre had passed an Order in the same case, directing the Investigating Officer to not file charge-sheet without prior permission of this Court.

Brief Background of the case

The two news articles were published in Dainik Pudhari, in the editions dated October 8, 2017 and May 22, 2018. These two articles were reported by Amol Kashinath Vyavhare. These reports were:

In the news report dated 8 October 2017, Vyavahare reported an incident that took place when there was a raid on Sawan Hotel, Solapur by the police attached to the City Crime Branch. At that time, one police official in uniform was heavily drunk in that hotel. He was caught on tape and the video was circulated on social media. On account of that, the news further says that there was a tussle between the Office of Deputy Commissioner of Police and the police attached to the Crime Branch.

Similarly, the news article published on 22 May 2018 which said that “the police staff attached to the Crime Branch Office are not following the instructions given by the Senior Officers of Crime Branch, but they are having a loyalty to Deputy Commissioner of Police.”

On June 1, 2018, the Deputy Commissioner of Police-Crime Smt. Pournima Chaugule Shringi lodged a complaint against Amol Vyavhare with Sadar Bazar Police Station Solapur City for these two articles mentioned above under Sections 505 (2), 500, 501 and 502, registered as First Information Report (FIR) no. 0390 0f 2018.

On July 6, 2018 the reporter, Amol Vyavhare approached the High Court of Bombay for quashing of the FIR by registering a Criminal Writ Petition no. 2954 of 2018 (Amol Kashinath Vyavhare v/s. Purnima Chaugule Shrirangi & Ors.).

Arguments by both sides

Learned Advocate of the Petitioner, Anvil S. Kalekar had made following submissions:

(i)         If the averments in the FIR and two news articles are perused, it does not disclose an offense under section 505(2) of Indian Penal Code. According to him, the publication must lead to spreading a rumour or alarming news and it must pertain to a religion, race, language or community.

(ii)        There is a prescribed procedure if Criminal Law has to be set in motion for an offense under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code pertaining to defamation of public servant. The same has not been followed.

To support his argument, he relied upon two Judgments, Bilal Ahmad Kaloo Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (to invoke charges under section 505) and KK Mishra Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (procedure to follow by public servant to file a case for defamation)

Learned Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP), Shri Yagnik representing the Solapur Police submitted that for a publication to fall under the provisions of Indian Penal Code of Section 505 (2), need not pertain to two religions and even if it pertains to the employees of one Establishment, still, it would be an offence under the said provision. In support of his argument, he relied upon a Judgment in a case of Amish Devgan v/s. Union of India (to invoke charges under section 505).

Court’s Observations and Judgment

On May 6, 2022 the Bombay High Court Division Bench of Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice S. M. Modak pronounced its judgment, and held, “It is also true that it will create an alarm amongst the members of the society to the effect that whether Police of Solapur Commissionerate area are in a position to protect their interest in case of need and whether they are competent to maintain law and order.” The Bench further noted that the same would not be sufficient to attract offence under 505(2) of the IPC.

The Court observed that both the Judgments on which both the sides had relied upon – Amish Devgan and Bilal Ahmad Kaloo, had a mention of the religion aspect. The Bench further stated, “The provisions of sub-section are very clear. Alarming news or rumour must relate to the subjects including relation, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste, community. The content of those two news articles does not deal with any of the subject referred to above.”

The Court thus observed, “We are of the considered opinion that the police have wrongly invoked the provisions of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code to the facts before us. It is not warranted. It does not satisfy all ingredients of Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code. Hence, the application of that Section has to be struck down.”

The Bench further stated about defamation charges, “Without going into issue whether news article caused defamation or not, it is true that procedure neither under Section 199(2) nor under Section 199(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is followed. Instead of that first informant has taken circuitous route and filed a police complaint. It is not warranted.”

The Bench while concluding its Judgment stated, “So FIR pertaining to offences under Sections 500, 501 and 502 of the Indian Penal Code also does also not stand scrutiny of law. The Petitioner-accused can certainly make out a case under exception to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. This can be possible only when the prosecution is initiated validly by filing a proper complaint. This has not happened in this case. Hence, the entire FIR consisting of offences u/s 500, 501, 502, 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code needs to be quashed.”

The entire judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

Delhi HC to hear ED’s response to Rana Ayyub’s plea against being put on a watchlist today

Bombay HC dismisses Gautam Navlakha’s plea seeking house arrest

Use of loudspeakers not a fundamental right: Allahabad HC

Delhi court orders FIR against three cops for shooting suspect in the knee

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