The Supreme Court on Friday has dismissed the appeal filed against Kerala High Court's order in which it had held that the State Secretary of RSS has the locus standi to maintain defamation complaint filed against a defamatory article published against the organization.

A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Aniruddha Bose has upheld the decision which was rendered by a single judge Bench of Kerala High Court comprising of Justice Sophy Thomas.

The Bench of the Supreme Court observed –

"Having heard learned counsel for the petitioner and on perusal of the record, we do not find any reason to entertain this petition under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.

The petition seeking special leave to appeal is, accordingly, dismissed."

AoR Ms. T. Archana along with Advocate Mr. Abhilash M.R. appeared for the Petitioner before the Apex Court.

Earlier the Kerala High Court had observed that the RSS was an identifiable and definite body and hence, any individual member had the locus standi to maintain a complaint against a defamatory article against the organization.

Background of the case

A complaint was filed by the RSS member alleging that the article which was published in Mathrubhoomi weekly contained imputations, which were defamatory and misleading, lowering the reputation of RSS in the public. Additionally, it was alleged that the article was capable of promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion and was prejudicial to communal harmony.

The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) Court, Ernakulam conducted an enquiry and took cognizance of the offences punishable under Sections 500 and 501 against eight Respondents in the compliant and gainst one, i.e. the Mathrubhoomi Illustrated Weekly, since it was not a legal entity, it was not arrayed as an accused and no summons was issued against it. This was challenged before the Kerala High Court.

The Kerala High Court had noted that when an article was published in a newspaper containing imputations meant to harm the reputation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a complaint by an individual member of RSS was maintainable under Explanation 2 to Section 499 of IPC. It was not necessary that the imputations in the article individually affected the reputation of the complainant.

The Kerala High Court had rejected the contention of the petitioners that Respondent No. 1 had no locus standi to maintain a complaint under Section 500 of IPC.

The High Court had also noted that Section 199 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, laid down an exception to the general rule that a complaint can be filed by anybody whether he is an aggrieved person or not, and modified that rule by permitting only an aggrieved person to move a Magistrate in case of defamation.

The Court had also held that if a well-defined class was defamed, every particular of that class could file a complaint even if the defamatory imputation in question did not mention him by name.

Click here to read/download the Order