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If a political party is defamed, members not at helm can’t appeal- Madras High Court

Section 499 of IPC penalizes harming the reputation of any person. Explanation 2 to Section 499 of IPC states that it may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such. The expression “as such” occurring in Explanation 2 is highly significant. These were held by the High Court of Madras through the learned bench of Justice G.R Swaminathan  in the case of Maridhas v. S.R.S Umari Shankar(Crl.OP(MD)No.20774 of 2021 & CRL.MP(MD)Nos.11863 & 11864 of 2021)

The crux of the case is Feeling aggrieved by the petitioner’s YouTube Video posted on 03.01.2020, the respondent herein filed the impugned private complaint under Section 500 of IPC. The jurisdictional magistrate took cognizance of the offence and issued summon to the petitioner. To quash the same, this criminal original petition came to be filed.

The learned counsel appearing for the petitioner reiterated all the contentions projected in the memorandum of grounds and submitted that the impugned complaint is not maintainable.

the learned counsel appearing for the complainant submitted that the impugned complaint is very much maintainable. She took me through the contents of the impugned complaint and pointed out that the words uttered by the petitioner are on the face of it defamatory. The petitioner has without any justification made defamatory statements against Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The complainant is an office bearer of the party. He was therefore entitled to file the impugned complaint. A reading of the complaint would show that all the essential ingredients of the offence of the defamation are present in this case. The complainant has produced a witness and also enclosed the offending video. Only after due application of judicial mind, cognizance was taken. The petitioner cannot claim the benefit of any of the exceptions to Section 499 of IPC. The petitioner’s conduct is malicious and suffers from lack of good faith. The learned counsel on the decision of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Subramanian Swamy v. UOI ((2016) 7 SCC 221).

The learned bench of Justice G.R Swaminathan, relying on Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and Ors. v. The Election Commission of India, ((2012) 7 SCC 340) and Section 3 (42) of the General Clauses Act, 1897, underscored that person’ would include a political party as well since it is ‘an association or body of individual citizens of India registered with Election Commission’ according to Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968. Further said “The petitioner had only made imputations against Ms.Gayathri Kanthadai and DMK. No imputation has been made against DMK partymen as such. The complainant has not suffered any legal injury. His reputation has not in any way been lowered. The Party has not authorised the filing of the complaint. If the partymen or the members of DMK had been defamed, then as a member of a definite class of people, the respondent could have maintained the complaint. Such is not the case here. The complainant on his own has filed the complaint. Since he is not a person aggrieved, continuation of the impugned proceedings will amount to an abuse of legal process. Therefore, the impugned proceedings are quashed. This criminal original petition is allowed. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions are closed.

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Judgement reviewed by Himanshu Ranjan

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