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‘Complaint of criminal defamation can’t be made to police directly’

Madras High Court judge says complainants should necessarily approach judicial magistrates

December 02, 2017 01:03 am | Updated 02:49 pm IST - CHENNAI

Chennai, 11/4/2008:  Madras High Court  in Chennai on Friday.  Photo: V. Ganesan.

Chennai, 11/4/2008: Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday. Photo: V. Ganesan.

The Madras High Court has ruled that a complaint of criminal defamation cannot be made directly to the police and that the latter has no authority to register a First Information Report (FIR) on the basis of such a complaint unless there was a specific direction from a judicial magistrate under Section 200 of Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.).

Justice M.S. Ramesh held so while quashing a charge sheet laid by Tiruppur North police against a father-son duo for having allegedly defamed a textile company run by a woman by posting a message on the Internet accusing the company of indulging in fraudulent practices and not keeping up the promises made to its customers.

According to the prosecution, R. Arun had posted the message on the web since the owner rejected his proposal to be one of the partners of the company. He was booked under various provisions of the Information Technology Act of 2000 apart from Sections 500 (defamation) and 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman) of Indian Penal Code.

The second accused P. Ramasamy was booked for criminal intimidation alone since it was alleged that he threatened the owner over phone.

However, finding that no prima facie material had been produced to prove the charge of intimidation, the judge straightaway quashed the chargesheet registered against the second accused.

In so far as the charge of defamation against the prime accused was concerned, Mr. Justice Ramesh agreed with his counsel S. Sathya Narayanan that there was an express bar under Section 199 of Code of Criminal Procedure prohibiting lower courts from taking cognisance of an offence under Section 500 of IPC if the complaint had not been made by the person aggrieved.

“In other words, a complaint of defamation cannot be made directly to a police officer but only through a private complaint [made to a judicial magistrate] under Section 200 of Cr.P.C. In view of this bar... it was improper on the part of the investigation officer to proceed against the first petitioner for an offence under Section 500,” the judge said.

Further, observing that the message purportedly posted by the first petitioner on the Internet only accuses the company and its owner of indulging in fraudulent transactions and does not in any way amount to insulting the modesty of a woman, the judge said the police had invoked Section 509 of IPC with a hidden agenda

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