New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stood strong in favour of protect freedom of speech and expression extended to media, through its observation on Monday stating that minor errors or enthusiasm in reporting on a scam or alleged involvement of certain individuals will not amount to defamation, even if it had been held to be constitutionally valid.
A woman petitioner, who mentioned in the petition that she is the daughter of a senior and reputed bureaucrat as well as that her mother was a minister in the Bihar government, had challenged a September 12 judgement of Patna High Court quashing cognizance taken by a magistrate of her defamation complaint accusing reputed journalists of telecasting incorrect news defaming her and family members.
The news report aired in April 2010 had alleged irregular allotment of land in Bihiya Industrial Area by Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority to her for establishing a proposed food processing unit. She had alleged that the Hindi TV news channel had made some specific “scandalous and derogatory” comments against her and her parents forcing her to file defamation complaint.
When her counsel challenged the HC decision, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra orally observed: “In a democracy you must learn to tolerate. The case has continued since 2011. The persons have spent a lot of time and money in defending themselves. Defamation may be constitutionally valid. But, an alleged incorrect news item about a scam does not amount to defamation.”
Refusing to entertain her petition, the bench further observed: “There could be some error or enthusiasm in reporting an alleged scam. But, we must allow freedom of speech and expression to press at the fullest. There may be some wrong reporting. For that they need not be hauled up for defamation.”
Before the HC, the woman had alleged that the news was shared with the public with tacit knowledge and approval of the journalists who did not verify the genuineness and correctness of the information. She said it amounted to candidly suppressing facts and knowingly and intentionally making false accusation of highlighting a “wholly imaginary, fabricated and distorted” picture regarding the land allotment to her. The HC had allowed the petition by Rajdeep Sardesai, who had challenged the magistrate’s decision to take cognisance of the defamation complaint filed by her.