The Supreme Court has decided to examine whether the printer and publisher of a newspaper or magazine is a necessary party in criminal defamation proceedings when the editor is already cited as an accused in a defamation complaint.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J. Chelameswar in a brief order on Friday said: “The important question arises [in this petition], namely, in a case of complaint under Sections 499, 500 and 506 Indian Penal Code, whether the ‘Publisher' in a newspaper is a necessary party in the said proceedings apart from ‘Editor' who has been shown as one of the accused.”

The Bench framed the important question on a special leave petition filed by a reporter of Punjab Kesari challenging the exclusion of the publisher of Dainik Bhaskar newspaper on the ground that he was not a necessary party since the editor had already been cited as an accused in the defamation complaint filed under IPC Sections 499 (criminal defamation), 500 (punishment for criminal defamation) and 506 (criminal intimidation).

After hearing counsel for the petitioner, the Bench issued notice to Haryana and the publisher returnable in four weeks.

In the instant case, appellant Dal Singh Roherian, Punjab Kesari reporter, was aggrieved by a news item published in Dainik Bhaskar with his photograph.

Alleging that the news item was published with a mala fide intention to harm his reputation and to lower his image in the eyes of the public, he filed a defamation complaint before the Judicial Magistrate, Kaithal, who issued summons to three respondents including the printer and publisher, Ramesh Chand Aggarwal.

After the sessions court declined to interfere with the order, the publisher filed a revision petition and the Punjab and Haryana High Court set aside the order of summons issued by the lower court in so far as he was concerned.

The present appeal is directed against this order.

“Mala fide intent”

The appellant contended that Mr. Aggarwal being the printer and publisher of the newspaper would be a necessary party in criminal defamation proceedings as the news item was published with a mala fide intention. He prayed for quashing of the High Court order.

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