IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

 

SUBJECT : QUASHING OF CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

 

Judgment Delivered on: March 16 , 2005

 

Criminal M.M.No. 2712/2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMRIT LAL BATRA ...Petitioner

Through Mr. D.C. Mathur, Sr. Advocate with

Mr. Brijesh Sharma, Advocate

 

 

VERSUS

 

DIVAKAR PANDEY & ANR. ...Respondents

Through Mr. I.P.S. Raghuvanshi, Advocate,

for the Respondent No.1.

 

 

MANJU GOEL, J.

 

1. The petition seeks quashing of the complaint u/s 500 of the Indian Penal Code and the order dated 23.4.2001 by which petitioner along with others have been summoned to stand trial for an offence u/s 499 & 500 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The complainant/Respondent No.1 Diwakar Pandey filed the complaint alleging inter alia that he was serving in the Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir as a pujari, that the services of the complainant and some of his colleagues were terminated by the Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir Trust/accused No.1 that the complainant and his peers approached the trustees of the temple including the petitioner (being the Chairman of the Trust) for fulfilment of some legitimate demands, that the trustees nurtured a grudge against the petitioner and his colleagues because of those demands, that because of such grudge the complainant was roped in a case u/s 107/151 Cr.P.C. and another under The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and also pasted written notice at the entrance of the temple notifying that the complainant was debarred from entering the temple and that if he was found inside the temple suitable action would be taken against him and that the language of the notification is defamatory. The complainant therefore prayed that the accused No.1 (petitioner herein) which is the Trust of the Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir and the office bearers of the Trust who were the accused No.2 to 7 in the complaint be summoned to stand trial for the offence u/s 500 IPC. By the order dated 23.4.2001, the Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi observed that there was sufficient ground to summon the accused u/s 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code and therefore ordered issue of summons.

 

2. Before proceeding further it will be appropriate to have a look at Sections 499 & 500 which defines the offence of defamation. The same is as under:-

“ Section 499: Defamation:- Whoever, by 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 imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.

Explanation 1.- It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives.

 

Explanation 2. - It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.

 

Explanation 3. - An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation.

 

Explanation 4. - No imputation is said to harm a person's reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.

 

Illustrations

(a) A says - Z is an honest man; he never stole B's watch; intending to cause it to be believed that Z did steal B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions.

 

(b) A is asked who stole B's watch. A points to Z, intending to cause it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation unless it fall within one of the exceptions.

 

(c) A draws a picture of Z running away with B's watch, intending it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions.

 

First Exception.- Imputation of truth which public good requires to be made or published.- It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it be for the public good that the imputation should be made or published. Whether or not it is for the public good is a question of fact.

 

Second Exception.- Public conduct of public servants.- It is not defamation to express in a good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

 

..........................

Section 500: Punishment for defamation:- Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

 

3. It is to be seen that to constitute any defamation the first essential thing is an imputation. The imputation by itself is not enough. There has to be an intention to harm the reputation of such person against whom the imputation is made. In the present case, the English version of notice which has allegedly caused defamation is as under:-

SHRI ADYA KATYAYNI SHAKTI PEETH MANDIR TRUST

CHATTARPUR, NEW DELHI 110 030

 

DATED : 3-7-1998

 

PUBLIC NOTICE

 

The management of Shri Adya Katyayni Shakti Peeth Mandir Trust, Chattarpur, New Delhi 110 030, has decided that the following Sevadars are debarred from entering into the Temple Premises as also other place of the Temple with effect from 4.7.1998 (Saturday).

In case, the following Sevadars try to enter forcibly into the Temple Complex, which shall be an unauthorised attempt on their part and legal action shall be taken against them.

S/Shri

1. Bhaskarananda

2.Raghunath Jha

3.Anjani Mishra

4.Ram Mehar

5.Sachan Tiwari

6.Subrahmaniam

7.Diwakar Pandey

8.Ramesh Kumar -I

9.Kaptain Singh

10.Rambir Singh

By order of

Management Committee Shri Adya Katyayni Shakti Peeth Mandir Trust

Secretary

 

4. There is clearly no imputation of any kind. The notice is a statement of fact that the complainant and certain other persons were debarred from entering the temple premises w.e.f. 4.7.98. The notice also says that if the complainant and others made any attempt to enter the temple by force legal action will be taken against them. There is no imputation of any kind in this notice. There is no mention of any misconduct on the part of the 10 persons named therein. Nor is there any observation of any kind touching the character or effecting the reputation of that person.

 

5. Even if it is taken that the notice extracted above is an imputation the same falls under the first exception as it is an imputation of truth which is required to be published for public good. The complainant has been a sevadar or an employee in the temple. It is necessary to inform the visitors at the temple that the persons named in the notice were no more entitled to enter the temple so that the visitors may not fall into any difficulty by approaching anyone of them for performance of pooja or rites at the temple. The services of these persons had been terminated and therefore it was proper to bring it to the notice of the visitors the fact that they were no more entitled to enter the temple.

 

6. Learned counsel for the petitioner further makes a grievance that the petitioner could not have been roped in the case by virtue of Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code unless there was any direct allegation showing the petitioner's involvement in the offence. The notice has been issued by the Management Committee, Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir Trust. It does not automatically follow that the petitioner is an offender in the case. The liability under Section 500 IPC is a criminal liability and not a civil liability. For involving the petitioner in a civil liability for defamation this averment that the notice had been issued by the Management Committee, perhaps, would have been of some value. For bringing criminal liability on the petitioner, the complainant must allege what the petitioner had done in the matter of the publication of the notice. The mere decision that the complainant would not be allowed into the temple was not by itself any defamation, even if it is assumed that it is an imputation. Only by publication, such an offence could have taken place. The public notice brings to the notice of the public that the management had taken such a decision. Even if it is defamation, the complainant must bring forth some fact to show that the petitioner had some role in bringing that fact to public notice by its publication.

 

7. Learned counsel for the respondent has expressed a grievance as to why Mr. V.K. Goyal was present on behalf of the respondents 2 to 6 on certain dates despite the fact that the names of Respondents 2 to 6 had been deleted from the array of respondents. He has also expressed his grievance about adjournment sought in the matter on certain dates. None of these two grievances has any bearing on the merit of the petition. Learned counsel for the respondent has not cited any law to support the complaint that the public notice which is the subject matter of the complaint constitutes an offence punishable u/s 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

 

8. In view of the above, the petition must succeed. The complaint u/s 499 read with Section 500 IPC titled Diwakar Pandey vs. Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth Mandir Trust and Ors. as well as the order dated 23.4.2001 are hereby quashed.

 

 

March 16, 2005 MANJU GOEL, J.