On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court reiterated that if a party to a judicial proceeding is prosecuted for the criminal offence of defamation in respect of a statement made in such a judicial proceeding either on oath or otherwise, his criminal liability must be determined by reference to the provisions to Section 499 of IPC alone. The Court stated that there is no merit in the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner that the statements made by the petitioner in the writ petition filed before a Court enjoy absolute privilege. It cited the case of Shybimon v. Haridas where they observed a similar finding.

This particular order was passed for a petition filed under Section 482 of CrPC for quashing the complaint and consequent proceedings initiated against the petitioner for allegedly defaming the complainant during the course of separate judicial proceedings.

The Petitioner had instituted a writ petition against the Complainant, wherein the Petitioner was alleged to have made defamatory averments in his petition, accusing the Complainant of being a goon. The High Court refused to quash the impugned proceedings because the main ingredient of the offence, ‘publication’ had been satisfied. The Court held that, “Once a statement is filed in a court of law, it can be considered as published,” the court held.

The Petitioner argued that the averments made in a complaint during the course of judicial proceedings do not attract the offence of defamation, punishable under Section 500 IPC, as they enjoy absolute privilege. It observed, “The privilege defined by the exceptions to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code must be regarded as exhaustive as to the cases which they purport to cover and recourse cannot be had to the English Common Law to add new grounds of exception to those contained in the same.”

The Court also stated, “Ordinarily, the question as to whether the statement in a given case falls under any of the ten exceptions to Section 499 IPC will have to be decided only after trial and the burden to bring the libel or slander under any of those exceptions is, by virtue of Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, on the accused.

The Court dismissed the petition by stating, “The question whether the petitioner had made the imputations against the complainant in the writ petition in good faith for the protection of  his interest is a matter which cannot be decided in a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC.”


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Link to the judgment:

Varghese Cor Episcopa v. State of Kerala and Ors.