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Monday, June 18, 2012

Publication for exposing corruption not libellous: Court

Exposing corruption is "for public good" and news article written for the same without any "ulterior motives" cannot be termed as libellous, a Delhi court has said while absolving an editor and a co-editor of a local weekly of the charges of causing defamation.The court said the first exception to section 499 of the IPC (defamation) requires to be seen whether the imputation is for public good and added that exposing corruption “certainly” falls under that category.

It said there may be cases where the expose is made with ulterior motives but it needs to be proved by the complainant. “Exposing corruption of the government department is certainly for public good. It is the duty of every responsible citizen to expose corruption.” “There may be certain cases where an individual or any other body of individual or corporate body exposes corruption for seeking revenge or for ulterior motives. In such cases the ulterior motives have to be proved by the complainant,” said Metropolitan Magistrate Rajinder Singh.

The court's order came on a defamation case filed by a former Indian Institute of Public Administration professor, seeking prosecution of the editors of Jan Vikas, a Delhi-based weekly, for publishing a news 'No action by municipality despite court orders'. The complainant told the court that the “libellous” news naming him was published in December 2007. The article was about “unauthorised constructions” in South Extension-I, a posh south Delhi locality, he said. The complainant said the newspaper editor, who had also been his tenant, was involved in a property dispute with him and was “vindictive” against him.

The editor and co-editor of the weekly, however, denied the charges contending that the article was published in “good faith” for exposing corruption in public good. They said the article did not target any individual and apart from complainant it also carried reference to other properties. “The said article was meant to highlight the inaction of authorities,” they contended.

The court after going through the news item concluded that “on a wholesome reading of article, it appears that the article does not specifically target any individual, although it refers the complainant by name”. It said the article emphasis upon the “inaction of the MCD” and “there is no material on record to show or prove that the article was written by the accused persons out of malice”.


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