Medha Patkar sentenced to five months in prison in 23-year-old defamation case

V.K. Saxena, who at the time was the president of the National Council for Civil Liberties, an NGO, had filed the defamation case against Medha Patkar in 2001

Updated - July 01, 2024 08:30 pm IST

Published - July 01, 2024 04:46 pm IST

Social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar. File

Social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

A Delhi court on Monday sentenced activist Medha Patkar, known for Narmada Bachao Andolan, for five months in an over two-decade-old criminal defamation case lodged against her by Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Vinai Kumar Saxena.

Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Raghav Sharma of the Saket Court, who had convicted Patkar for the offence of criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, on May 24, 2024, said that the conviction order will remain suspended for 30 days.

The court also rejected Ms. Patkar’s prayer to release her on the condition of probation and noted that it is not imposing punishment of 1-2 years, considering Ms. Patkar’s age and health conditions.

“The offence entailed a maximum punishment of simple imprisonment of up to two years or fine or both,” the court noted.

The accused is also ordered to pay ₹10 lakh compensation to Mr. Saxena.

The matter pertains to 2001, when Mr. Saxena was the president of an NGO named National Council of Civil Liberties. In 2000, his organisation had published an advertisement against Ms. Patkar’s movement which opposed the construction of dam on Narmada river. Soon after this, Ms. Patkar had issued a press statement in which she claimed that Mr. Saxena was a “coward” and not a “patriot”.

Aggrieved by this, Mr. Saxena had approached a local court in Ahmedabad which took cognisance of the offence. The case was moved to Saket court in 2003 in pursuant to the orders of the Supreme Court.

The court while convicting Ms. Patkar said that her actions were deliberate and malicious. The court added that Ms. Patkar imputed that Mr. Saxena was an agent of the Government of Gujarat which and her comments were direct attack on petitioners personal character and loyalty to the nation.

The court also said that the accused had failed to provide any evidence to counter the claims that she did not intend or foresee the harm these imputations would cause to the complainant.

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