SUDHIR ANANDRAO LANKE Vs. SHRI JAGDAMBA PUBLIC TRUST, MOHATA
LAWS(BOM)-2018-7-288
HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY
Decided on July 25,2018

Sudhir Anandrao Lanke Appellant
VERSUS
Shri Jagdamba Public Trust, Mohata Respondents

JUDGEMENT

VIBHA KANKANWADI,J. - (1.) Present application has been filed by original accused no.02 by invoking inherent powers of this Court under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, to quash and set aside the order dated 03.03.2017, passed by the Judicial Magistrate (F.C.), Ahmednagar, whereby the order of issue process against the present applicant for the offence punishable under Sections 500, 501, 502, read with Sections 34 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code came to be passed in S.C.C. No. 554 of 2017 on complaint dated 25.01.2017 lodged by respondent no.01 complainant. The applicant is also challenging the order passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Ahmednagar, in Criminal Revision No. 124 of 2017, dated 13.09.2017, confirming the order of the learned Magistrate by dismissing the revision petition.
(2.) The applicant contends that he is serving as head of Ahmednagar edition of daily Lokmat which is widely circulated through the Maharashtra. As a journalist, it was his duty to bring to the notice of public at large, the things which are going on in public trust without taking anybody 's side. He (Judgment) (3) Cri. Appln. No. 05977 of 2017 submits, that it is always the job of journalist to criticize functioning of public officers so that they work within the framework of the Constitution as well as various laws. He has freedom of speech as well as expression which is the right guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. He has written news articles from 06.01.2017 to 19.01.2017 under the heading 'Mohatyachi Maya'. The sole purpose of the series was to bring public at large, various irregularities which are being committed by the trustees of the public trust. The article dated 06.01.2017 mainly highlighted that at the time of renovation of Mohata Devi Temple, some Suvarna Yantras were buried and to make Sanskar on the said Suvarna Yantras, Gorochan was used which is available in the gall bladder of the cow. A question was put to the public at large, as to from where such Gorochan is made available when there is ban on cow slaughter. It was the purpose of the news article, as to how for the purpose of burying said Suvarna Yantras, huge amount is spent. In the news article dated 07.01.2017, it was reported that there was huge difference in the account in respect of gold and silver of the trust. There was no intention to defame the trust but a query was put which was, in fact, query which was raised by some of the trustees. Whatever reporting has been made is in good faith. Thereafter, in the news article dated 09.01.2017, it was stated that though the (Judgement) (4) Cri. Appln. No. 05977 of 2017 District Judge is the Chairman, still there is no transparency in the working of the trust and as such, faith of the public at large that, when there is a Judicial Officer, there will be transparency is shattered. The intention behind this article was also not to defame either the trust or trustees, but it was only to bring out the fact that there is no transparency though Judicial Officer is one of the officer of the trust. After completion of the series of the news articles, there was certain agitation by the villagers against the trust and, therefore, public felt that the trustees have cheated them. Thereafter, the respondent lodged a private complaint dated 25.01.2017 for the aforesaid offences against, in all, seven accused persons which included, ex-trustee, present applicant and other officers of Lokmat Media Private Limited.
(3.) After receipt of the summons, the applicant had approached Sessions Court in Criminal Revision No. 124 of 2017, thereby raising several grounds stating that no offence is made out. However, his revision has been dismissed. The applicant contends that when there was no intention to defame anybody, it cannot be said that offence of any kind has been made out. The essence of offence of defamation is to harm the reputation of a person. Here, questions were raised in respect (Judgement) (5) Cri. Appln. No. 05977 of 2017 of work of a trust which is carried out through its trustees. It is tried to be contended by the applicant, that the case and his articles come within Explanation 4 and 9th as well as 10th explanation to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. It has been contended that both the courts below did not consider that there was no prima facie case made out for issuance of process. There was no due application of mind by the learned Magistrate while passing the impugned order of issuance of process. It would be an abuse of process of law to ask him to face the trial and, therefore, he has prayed for setting aside the order of issuance of process by the learned Magistrate as well as setting aside the order passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Ahmednagar, in dismissing his revision application.;


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