To constitute defamation, the statement when read as a whole must satisfy the necessary ingredients: High Court of Jammu and Kashmir

A statement cannot be said to be defamatory unless it is taken in its full context and then fulfils the necessary ingredients required under the relevant laws. This was held in the judgement passed by a single member bench of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir consisting of Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul in the case of T.K. Ganjoo v Meenu Betab [CRMC 808/2018] on 19th July 2021.

The petitioner, T.K. Ganjoo filed the present petition seeking the quashment of order dated 4th June 2018 passed by the 2nd Additional Munsiff of Jammu whereby cognizance for defamation under Section 499/500 of the Ranbir Penal Code has been  by the magistrate on the complaint filed by the respondent, Meenu Betab against the petitioner. The impugned order is challenged on the grounds that the complaint does not disclose any offence cognizable under Sections 499 or 500 of the RPC as the allegations levelled in the complaint do not constitute the said offences as have none of the necessary ingredients. As per Section 499 of the RPC, Defamation can be alleged when words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or is visible from words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputations will harm the reputation of a person.

The petitioner submitted that none of the necessary ingredients have been fulfilled and the complaint was filed against him with the sole objective of harassment. It was contended that not a single word written in the legal notice was prima facie defamatory in nature as per the ingredients laid out in Section 499 of the RPC. The counsel appearing for the respondent submitted that the petitioner had used defamatory language against the respondent in the legal notice issued against her.

Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul came to the conclusion “To constitute an offence punishable under Section 499 RPC, the complaint and the statement recorded must satisfy the ingredients of such offence. The complaint, when read as a whole, does not state anywhere that the words used in the legal notice had lowered the reputation of the complainant in the estimation of public. The allegations which have been made in the complaint do not, in any way, fall within the purview of the provisions of Section 499 RPC. Even if some words have been written in a legal notice, those would not be construed to be such words as would ordinarily effect the reputation of anybody and lower his/her reputation in the estimation of public”.

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