Journalism is a profession, which sustains to provide the public at large with all classes of news and recent updates, be it National, International, Sports, Economics, Health and so on. More often than not, journalists are accused of making or publishing allegations against citizens, which results in reducing their general standing in the society.

Recently, Bombay High Court held that journalists are in no better position or have greater freedom to make false claims against citizens that would necessarily hamper their reputation in the society and additionally, lower their self esteem.

The Bombay High Court, while observing the case filed by the journalists of ‘Lokmat’ in lieu of quashing a defamation case that was filed against them by a social worker and a Founder-President of Akhil Bhartiya Rajarshee Shahu Brigade, Jalgaon reiterated the same.

In the previous case, filed by the social worker as a private complaint against ‘Lokmat’ with respect to an item that was published on the front page of the news paper. It captioned as ‘Narbali cha prayatna’ (Attempt at human sacrifice) with a sub heading ‘Jalu gramsthanche Madtine Vachale Balkache Pran’ (A Child survives death scare because of alertness of Jalu villagers). They claimed that the news article defamed them as it was clearly written in a manner, which conveyed that they were brought in by the villagers under the suspicion that they were indulging in some inhuman act like, human sacrifice.

Lokmat claimed that the news was true and was for public good, they took the recourse of exception (1) of Section 499 under the Indian Penal Code but, the high court took a stand that whether ‘Lokmat’ published the news for public good is a mere question of fact and hence cannot be looked into.

The Bombay HC relied on a Supreme Court’s judgement of Sewakram Vs. Karanjia (1981) 3 SC 208, where it was held that journalists don’t enjoy a special privilege or have a greater freedom than others to make imputations or allegations that could ruin the reputation of others. Justice Mangesh S. Patil reiterated the same. Therefore, the Bombay High Court upon scrutiny dismissed the Criminal Application seeking quashment of the complaint. As it held, how there exists a prima facie material to show the offence of defamation.

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Judgement Link: https://bombayhighcourt.nic.in/generatenewauth.php?auth=cGF0aD0uL2RhdGEvYXVyanVkZ2VtZW50cy8yMDE5LyZmbmFtZT1DUkFQUExOMjAzMjA5LnBkZiZzbWZsYWc9TiZyanVkZGF0ZT0mdXBsb2FkZHQ9MDQvMTAvMjAxOSZzcGFzc3BocmFzZT0xNDEwMTkxMzQ1NDM=