On November 09, 2023, the Court of ASJ/ Special Judge (PC Act) MK Nagpal Rouse Avenue Court, dismissed two Criminal Revision Petitions filed by Aam Aadmi Party representatives, Raghav Chadha and Satyendra Jain against an Order passed by the ACMM Court in a Complaint Case filed by BJP leader Chhail Bihari Goswami against two tweets dated December 13, 2020 from Chadha’s official Twitter account (now X) and one statement published in a Hindi daily newspaper dated December 14, 2020 stating, “BJP Shasit MCD ne Delhi ke itihaas ka sabse bada rs. 2500 crore ka ghotala kiya. Humne greh mantri Amit Shah ji se milne ka samay manga toh unhone muje mere aawaas se hi giraftaar kar liya hai. Amit Shah ji, Aap apni Police ked um par apni party ka bhrashtachaar kyon dabana chahte hain.” “2. Bhajapa ki MCD ko jitna paisa do wo sab dakaar jaate hain. Ab Bhajapa ke mayor aur parshad, mukhyamantri ji ke ghar ke bahar baithe hain ki humein 13,000 crore aur do taaki hum wo bhi dakaar jaayein. Police unhein dharna karne deti hai, hum Amit Shah ji se milne jaana chaahte hain toh hume ghar se hi hiraasat mein le liya jaata hai.

The Complaint Case against the Revisionists was filed by Chhail Bihari Goswami under Sections 499, 500 read with 34 r/w 120B of the IPC before the ACMM, Spl. Court for MP/MLAs, Rouse Avenue Courts.

In addition to the Revisionists, three other individuals namely Atishi Marlena, Durgesh Pathak, and Saurabh Bhardwaj were implicated as accused parties. However, they along with Satyendra Jain, were considered merely proforma respondents in the mentioned petition.

According to the accusations outlined in the aforementioned complaint, Chhail Bihari Goswami, the complainant, has been subjected to public defamation by representatives of the AAP. This defamation allegedly occurred through various means, including press conferences, social media platforms such as Twitter, and publication in newspapers. The statements in question revolve around the purported misappropriation of funds amounting to approximately Rs. 2400-2500 crores, which are claimed to belong to North MCD under the control of the BJP.

Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur appeared for the Revisionist Raghav Chadha, Senior Advocate Rebecca M. John appeared for Revisionist Satyendra Kumar Jain and Advocate Aishwarya Chhabra appeared for the Respondents.

The Senior counsel representing the Revisionists claimed that the statements per se were not defamatory in view of provisions contained under Section 499 IPC and that the ACMM had erred in holding these statements to be defamatory and issuing orders of summoning and notice to the accused persons/revisionists.

The Revision Petitions contested the decision of the ACMM court dated November 09, 2022, in which the discharge applications submitted by the Revisionists were rejected. The Trial court had directed the issuance of notice of accusations under Section 251 Cr.P.C. against the Revisionists, alleging defamation against Chhail Bihari. One of the key contentions made by the Revisionists, among their various arguments, was that the mere fact of the Complainant being a Councillor of North MCD or a member of the mentioned group should not automatically qualify him as an aggrieved party. They argued that in his individual capacity, he lacks locus standi to file the Complaint. Raghav Chadha, had also challenged the summoning Order.

The ASJ while upholding the correctness of the impugned order dated November 09, 2022 has stated that the ACMM had rightly observed in her impugned order that the prime question for consideration before the trial court was none of the arguments presented by the Senior Advocates rather it was as to whether in a summons case the accused could have been summoned by the court to face trial for the alleged offence of defamation. The ASJ upheld the summoning Order of the ACMM Court.

When deliberating on the matter of discharge, the Court observed that there is no provision or precedent for discharging an accused in a summons trial case, as outlined in the procedures established for such cases in Chapter XX of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). However, while acknowledging the established principle in the case of RE: Expeditious Trial of Cases under Section 138 of the N.I. Act 1881, which lays down that the Magistrate, while exercising powers under Section 322 CrPC, may reconsider the summoning order if he lacks jurisdiction to try the case, held that once the Magistrate issues summons to the accused, the accused is required to appear before the court. And since in the present case, the matter of jurisdiction was not raised before the ACMM, Section 322 Cr.P.C. was held not to apply to the given facts and circumstances. The Court while relying upon the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Adalat Prasad held that the appropriate recourse available to the accused is the extraordinary remedy provided by Section 482 Cr.P.C., allowing them to approach the High Court to seek the desired relief.

Given that the primary issue revolved around whether the Trial Court possessed the authority to discharge the accused at the stage of serving a notice of accusation under Section 251 Cr.P.C., the court affirmed the Trial Court's findings on this matter. It was agreed that the Trial Court did not have the jurisdiction to discharge the accused individuals in such a scenario. Consequently, the Court refrained from delving into the facts or merits of the case to determine whether the alleged statements or imputations attributed to the revisionists or the other three accused amounted to defamation under Section 499 IPC. Similarly, the Court did not assess whether the respondent, Chhail Bihari Goswami, qualified as a person aggrieved under Section 199 Cr.P.C. The rationale behind this decision was that the Trial Court had already formed a prima facie view on these aspects while directing the summoning of the revisionists and other accused for the offense of defamation punishable under Section 500 IPC in its previous order dated February 16, 2022.

The ASJ, while acknowledging the power of the Trial Court to modify or amend the charge vested in it by virtue of Section 216 Cr.P.C., either suo moto or on an application, iterated on the issue of framing and serving of individual notices of accusation upon the accused for commission of the offence under Section 500 IPC ‘only’ and without the help of Section 34 IPC could not be considered to be a mistake or illegality for it to be required to be interfered with under the provisions of Sections 397 Cr.P.C. or 399 Cr.P.C. as no prejudice was found to have been caused to the revisionists.

The criminal revision petitions were rejected, and the challenged orders dated February 16, 2022 and November 09, 2022, were affirmed as consistent with the law. Additionally, the subsequent notices of accusations served on the revisionists in accordance with the summoning order were also upheld.

Cause Title: Raghav Chadha v. Chhail Bihari Goswami & Ors.

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