While dismissing the writ filed by the Petitioner seeking to quash complainant proceedings against him under Section 499 of IPC, the Bombay High Court refused to interfere in the detailed order passed by the Magistrate who had duly applied his judicial mind to reach a conclusion that the allegations in the newspaper would fall within the expression of "defamation" under Section 499 of IPC.

Noting that the imputations in the present case are sufficient to attract provisions of Section 499 of IPC, a Single Judge Bench of Justice Amit Borkar observed that “Publication of truth as sufficient justification is available under exception (1) to section 499, provided it is made for the public good. But when the truth is set up as a defense, it must extend to the entire libel, and it is not sufficient that only a part of the libel is proved to be true”.

Advocate Apoorv Singh appeared for the Petitioner and APP A.R. Patil appeared for the Respondent.

Going by the background of the case, it was the case of the Respondent/ Complainant that a news item published by the Petitioner in the Mumbai Mirror Edition had caused him the loss of reputation amongst his peers. In response, the Petitioner submitted that statements were made in good faith and were not defamatory to which the Respondent had submitted that at the stage of issue of process it is only required that the case of Section 499 is made out and meticulous analysis is not required.

After considering the submission, the High Court observed that the defense of Exception 1 to Section 499 of the IPC is available only when it is made in the public good and that its truthfulness should extend to the entire libel and not merely a part of it.

The Court after perusing the facts and reading both the articles in issue, dismissed the petition and held that the Trial Court is correct in recording that the allegations fall under Section 499 of the IPC and the Court shall not interfere with the complaint proceedings.

Referring to Section 200 of the CrPC, the Bench observed that at the stage of issuance of process, the inquiry needs to be restricted to the intrinsic quality of statements made before the Court on oath by the complainant to ascertain whether essential ingredients of offence are made out or not.

Referring to the decision in case of Rohini Singh, D/o. Late Mr. M.B. Singh & 6 Vs. State of Gujarat & 1 [2018 SCC OnLine Guj 209], wherein it was held that “Fair comments cannot justify a defamatory statement which is untrue is fact. A comment cannot be fair if it is built upon facts which are not truly stated. It cannot be stated that because the accused bona fide believes that he is publishing what is true, that is, any defense in point of law”, the Bench dismissed the petition observing that the Petitioner's defense need not be gone into at this stage.

Cause Title: Harish Kumar Garg v. State of Maharashtra and Anr.

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