The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to examine the constitutional validity of Indian Penal Code provisions on criminal defamation, which the media and public spirited persons have for long alleged to have been misused by powerful political leaders to muzzle critical voices.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit stayed five pending criminal defamation proceedings initiated by former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa against BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who alleged that criminal defamation provisions in Section 499 and 500 of IPC went much beyond the reasonable restrictions on right to free speech under Article 19(2) of Constitution.
At least on two earlier occasions, the SC had a chance to decide the impact of Article 19(2) on the criminal defamation provision in IPC. But on both occasions, it disposed of the petitions without answering the question.
Both the cases related to misuse of criminal defamation proceedings in Tamil Nadu – harassment of ‘Nakheeran’ editor R R Gopal in 1994 for attempting to publish the autobiography of criminal ‘Auto Shankar’ explaining his nexus with IAS and IPS officials; and the filing of 125 defamation cases by the state government against the ‘Hindu’ newspaper editor and journalists in 2004.
In both these cases, the apex court had said the validity of Section 499 and 500 ought to be examined but had deferred it for an opportune moment in future. It had said, “We have not gone into the impact of Article 19(1)(a) read with 19(2) on Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. They may have to a wait a proper case.”
[Source: internetrights.in,Oct 31, 2014]