Provisions covering ‘Criminal Defamation’ are held to be constitutionally valid
Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 184 of 2014
Bench: Justice Dipak Misra; Justice Prafulla C. Pant
Case Brief: The present writ petition is preferred to challenge the constitutional validity of the provisions defining the offence ‘defamation’ and providing punishments for the same. Therefore the present concerned bench firstly refer the provisions under challenge and also submissions made by the learned counsels appearing for the parties and submissions made by amicus curiae as to the important concepts of ‘defamation’ and ‘reputation’, delve into the glorious idea of “freedom of speech and expression” and conception of “reasonable restrictions” under the scheme of Constitution of India. The bench further observed that the provisions of section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 providing the offence of Defamation and also the Section 500 of the Code prescribe the punishment for said offence. Similarly, the section 199 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is providing for the prosecution of the defamation.
Moreover, the bench also took note of various international covenants, thoughts of creative individuals, quoting from various ancient books, etc. to understand the concepts of ‘reputation’ and ‘defamation’. Moreover, this bench finally observed that one cannot be unmindful that right to freedom of speech and expression is a highly valued and cherished right but the Constitution conceives of reasonable restriction. In that context criminal defamation as per the provisions of Sections 499 and 500 the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is not a restriction on free speech that can be characterized as disproportionate. Also, this bench saw that the ‘Right to free speech’ cannot mean that a citizen can defame the other. Protection of reputation is a fundamental right. It is also a human right. Cumulatively, it serves the social interest. As such, this bench also observed that, it cannot be accepted that the provisions relating to the Criminal Defamation are not saved by doctrine of proportionality as it determines a limit which is not impermissible within the criterion of reasonable restriction. As such, the constitutional validity of the Section 499 and section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with section 199 of Code of Criminal Procedure, was upheld and declared these provisions as constitutionally valid, and also, this bench disposed of the writ petitions accordingly.
Read the Judgement: Subramanian Swamy Vs Union of India, Ministry Of Law & Ors