In the case of Vijay Darda & Anr. v. Ravindra Gupta, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, which is constituted of Justice Vinay Joshi, recently ruled that the media has the right to report on the registration of first information reports (FIRs) and on cases filed in courts and defamation actions cannot lie on the basis of such reports. The court also stressed the importance of press freedom and the information that the media provides while quashing a defamation case against owners of a daily news paper.
It would be equivalent to limiting reporting on investigations to merely the final result, depriving the public of their right to know what is happening, to label factual reporting on the registration of cases as defamatory.
In its 21-page judgement, the Court highlighted that allowing defamation cases against media for publishing accurate news would be unhealthy in a democratic system and that the fundamental role of the press is to give accurate information.
“In other words, the freedom of making a true report regarding the affairs which are in the public domain is a right, which flows from the freedom of speech. The action of defamation about true and faithful reporting is unhealthy for a democratic setup,”The Court Held
The Court also highlighted the power of the press to impress upon people’s minds, and as a result, it was essential that good care is taken by the person responsible for publishing anything in the newspaper.
It further stated that filing defamation complaints on such news items is nothing more than an attempt to stifle the reporters and informants with a view to forcing them to withdraw the report filed against the persons who are allegedly defamed.
A plea for the quashing of criminal proceedings brought against Vijay Darda, Chairman, and Rajendra Darda, Editor-in-Chief of Lokmat Media Pvt. Ltd. (applicants) by a Magistrate Court on the basis of a defamation charge was being heard by the Bench.
The publication, which the complainant claimed was false and defamatory since the publishers had not confirmed the facts before posting the news, dealt with the filing of a crime against him and his family.
It stated right away that there had not been any inaccurate or “colorable” reporting.
The Court further pointed out that the applicants were unconcerned with the news that was reported and that another editor was mentioned in the newspaper but was not charged in the FIR.
As a result, it determined that the applicants were not guilty of the alleged defamation offence as asserted by the complainant.
“The responsibility of the editor is to publish true facts and nothing else. The complaint of defamation alleges that the truthfulness of the contents of FIR are not verified. The publisher is not expected to investigate the matter and ascertain the truthfulness of the FIR before publishing the news item. The liability and responsibility of the editor are restricted to a limited extent therefore, the contention in that regard is not acceptable,” The Court Held
The Court Quashed Proceedings.
Firdos Mirza and Nitin Lambat, respectively, represented the applicants and complaint in court.