Sonal Bhargava | Prabhat Bandhulya
The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court in the case of Vijay Darda & Anr. v. Ravindra Gupta recently ruled that the media has the right to report on the registration of FIRs and on cases filed in courts, and defamation action cannot lie on the basis of such reports While dismissing a defamation case against the owners of a daily newspaper, Justice Vinay Joshi emphasised the value of media freedom and the information it delivers. It would be equivalent to limiting reporting on investigations to merely the final result, depriving the public of their right to know what is happening, to labelling factual reporting on the registration of cases as defamatory. In its 21-page judgement, the Court highlighted that allowing defamation cases against media for publishing accurate news would be unhealthy in a democratic system and that the fundamental role of the press is to give accurate information. It went on to say that filing defamation charges in relation to such news stories is nothing more than an effort to restrain reporters and informants by pressuring them to retract the complaint they had previously made against the people who were purportedly defamed. The Court also emphasised the press's ability to shape public opinion; hence it was crucial that the person in charge of publishing anything in the newspaper take great care. Vijay Darda, Chairman, and Rajendra Darda, Editor-in-Chief of Lokmat Media Pvt. Ltd. (applicants) presented a petition to the Bench asking for the quashing of criminal proceedings that had been started against them by a Magistrate Court on the basis of a defamation complaint. The publication, which the complainant claimed was false and defamatory since the publishers had not confirmed the facts before posting the news, dealing with the filing of a crime against him and his family. It stated right away that there had not been any inaccurate or "colourable" reporting. The Court further pointed out that the applicants were unconcerned with the news that was reported and that another editor was mentioned in the newspaper but was not charged in the FIR. As a result, it determined that the applicants were not guilty of the alleged defamation offence as asserted by the complainant.