Top Stories’State Should Not Be Impulsive Like An Ordinary Citizen In Defamation Matters And Invoke Sec 199(2) CrPC To Throttle Democracy’ :Madras HC Quashes Cases Against N Ram & Ors [Read Judgment] LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK21 May 2020 2:59 AMShare This – xIn a significant judgment underscoring the importance of press freedom, the Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed the criminal complaints filed against a group of editors and journalists such as N Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan, Nakkeeran Gopal etc.The complaints were lodged in 2012 alleging “criminal defamation against State’ over few reports against J Jayalalitha,…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginIn a significant judgment underscoring the importance of press freedom, the Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed the criminal complaints filed against a group of editors and journalists such as N Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan, Nakkeeran Gopal etc.The complaints were lodged in 2012 alleging “criminal defamation against State’ over few reports against J Jayalalitha, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.Alleging that the reports amounted to defamation of a state functionary, criminal complaints were filed by the Public Prosecutor before the Sessions Court under Section 199(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.Section 199(2) CrPC lays down a special procedure for offences of defamation against state/constitutional functionaries under Section 499/500 of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint is filed by the Public Prosecutor on behalf of the State before the Sessions Court (normal defamation cases are filed before the Magistrate’s Court)The writ petitions filed in the HC challenged the constitutional validity of the government orders granting sanction to the Public Prosecutor to file complaints under Section 199(2) CrPC in respect of the reports.The bench of Justice Abdul Quddhose noted that there is a higher threshold for the State to initiate criminal defamation against citizens, when compared to ordinary cases of defamation inter-se private parties.”The Criminal defamation law is meant for a laudable object in real cases of necessity and cannot be misused by using the State as a tool to settle scores of a public servant/constitutional functionary over his/her adversary. A public servant/constitutional functionary must be able to face criticism. As public servants/constitutional functionaries, they owe a solemn duty to the people. The state cannot use criminal defamation cases to throttle democracy”, the Court observed in the 152-page judgment.The Court added that the State should maintain higher tolerance with respect to criticism, and cannot be “impulsive” to launch prosecution.”The State should not be impulsive like an ordinary citizen in defamation matters and invoke section 199(2) Cr.P.C. to throttle democracy. Only in cases where there is foolproof material and when launching of prosecution under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. is inevitable, the said procedure can be invoked””An individual or a public servant/constitutional functionary can be impulsive but not the State which will have to show utmost restraint and maturity in filing criminal defamation cases. If the State becomes an impulsive prosecutor in criminal defamation matters that too in an era of social media where there are scores of abusive contents made against public figures, the Sessions Court will get clogged with innumerable matters which are sometimes vindictive in nature only to settle scores with opposition political parties”Likening the State to a “parent”, the Court observed :”State is like a parent for all citizens in so far as Defamation law is concerned. It is normal for some parents to face vituperative insults from their children. Despite those insults, parents don’t disown their children quite easily. They always have the hope that their children will mend themselves in the near future. Only in rarest of rare cases when the character and behaviour of their children is irretrievably broken down and irreconcilable, the parents disown them. The attitude of the State with regard to defamation must also be the same as their tolerance level towards its citizens in so far as defamation is concerned must be akin to that of parents. When the state is having other avenues under law to make the offender realise the mistake if any, the criminal defamation law under section 499 and 500 IPC should be sparingly used by the State”.Notably, the judgment referred to the recent speeches delivered by Justice Deepak Gupta, former SC judge and Justice D Y Chandrachud, SC judge, wherein they highlighted the importance of dissent in democracy and criticized the growing tendency to use criminal law to silence dissenting voices.The Court referred to the principles laid down by the apex court in the case Dr Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India regarding the use of criminal defamation. Though the petitioners had also challenged the constitutional validity of Section 499/500 of the Indian Penal Code, the HC did not deal with that aspect, as its validity was upheld by the SC in 2016 in the Subramanian Swamy case.Two weeks ago, the Madras HC had quashed criminal defamation proceedings against a reporter and editor of Economic Times holding that mere inaccuracies in reporting will not amount to defamation, in the absence of actual malic.Level of Scrutiny by Sessions Court under Section 199(2) higherAfter examining the statistics, the court noted that from the year 2012 to 2020, a slew of cases filed totally numbering 226 cases are pending on the file of various Sessions courts till date.Irrespective of political party who is in power, cases under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. have been filed. Due to the mechanical filing of complaints under section 199(2) Cr.P.C., the Sessions Courts are sometimes clogged with those matters, the Court said.In this backdrop, the Court reminded the Sessions Judges that they have to exercise higher level of scrutiny with respect to criminal defamation complaints by the State.”The level of scrutiny by a Sessions Court under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. is much higher than the scrutiny by a Magistrate under section 199(6) Cr.P.C. Before taking cognizance under section 199(2) Cr.P.C., the Sessions court can even order for further investigation. The Sessions court cannot mechanically take cognizance of the complaint and issue process to the accused. The court will have to independently apply its judicial mind and assess the materials and only if it is satisfied take cognizance of the complaint. The materials assessed shall be indicated by the Sessions Court in its order taking cognizance of the complaint filed under section 199(2) Cr.P.C”Public Prosecutor not to act like a post officeThe Court said that Public Prosecutor should not act like a “post office” to merely file complaints at the directives of the State, and should independently apply mind on the allegations before filing the complaint.”In defamation cases filed under Section 199(2) Cr.P.C., the public prosecutor plays a very vital role. The role is very special because in those matters, the public prosecutor plays a dual role both as a person representing the public servant/constitutional functionary as well as a public prosecutor. Therefore, the cardinal principles mentioned supra will have to be strictly adhered to by the public prosecutor while filing complaints under section 199(2) Cr.P.C”.Ingredients of defamation missingThe Court noted that in all the cases, the core ingredient required for prosecution through a public prosecutor under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. namely “Defamation of the State” is missing. In all the matters, while granting sanction for prosecution to a public prosecutor, the respective sanction orders are totally silent as to whether the state has been defamed on account of the alleged defamation of the public servant/constitutional functionary while discharging his/her public functions, said the Court.”in all the cases which are the subject matter of consideration by this court, the State has sanctioned prosecution in a mechanical fashion by total non application of mind as the fundamental requirement for prosecution under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. namely “Defamation of the State” does not find a place in all the sanction orders. The public prosecutor as well as the Sessions Judge in cases where cognizance has already been taken by the Sessions Court have also not applied their mind independently as the core essence of prosecution under section 199 (2) Cr.P.C. namely “Defamation of the state” has not been satisfied as seen from the sanction orders. On this score alone, all the Government Orders and the consequential complaints for criminal defamation under section 199(2) Cr.P.C. will have to fail”Media should exercise self-regulationThe Court also made few parting remarks on the importance of the media to exercise self-regulation.”Our nation has always respected the role of the media and has highest regard for their independent and truthful reporting. But of late for quite number of years, there seems to be some decay happening in every sphere of democracy including the Media. If the rottenness is not removed sooner than later, it will spread like fire causing great peril to our robust Democracy””The newspaper is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within”Case DetailsTitle : Thiru N Ram, Editor-In-Chief, “The Hindu” vs Union of India and connected casesCoram : Justice Abdul QuddhoseAppearances : Senior Advocates P S Raman, I.Subramanian, Advocates P.T.Perumal, Prasanth Rajagopal, S.Elambharathi, M.Sneha, .P.Kumaresan, B.K.Girish Neelakantan for petitioners.Madana Gopal Rao, Central Government Standing Counsel and S.R.Rajagopalan, Additional Advocate General assisted by Mr.K.Ravikumar, learned Additional Government Pleader Click here to download judgmentRead JudgmentNext Story
Hong Kong-based containership manager and owner Seaspan Corporation has taken delivery of MSC Shuba B, an 11,000 TEU containership, from Hanjin Subic shipyard in the Phillippines.As informed, the Neopanamax will commence a seventeen-year fixed-rate bareboat charter with Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). Upon completion of the bareboat charter period, MSC is obligated to purchase the vessel for a predetermined amount.The MSC Shuba B is Seaspan’s first 11,000 TEU SAVER design containership in a series of five ships, all of which will be chartered out to MSC.The Madeira-flagged vessel, which has a length of 330 meters and a width of 48.2 meters, is currently worth USD 80.9 million, VesselsValue’s data shows.Furthermore, the company said it has entered into fixed-rate time charter contracts with an unnamed liner for two 10,000 TEU newbuilding containerships currently under construction at Yangzijiang’s shipyards.The two vessels are currently scheduled to be handed over to the company in 2018 and, upon delivery, will commence three-year fixed-rate time charters with options for up to three additional years. Seaspan has entered into “advanced discussions” on financing these two newbuildings with an undisclosed Asian financial institution.In addition, Seaspan has inked deals to sell four 4,250 TEU vessels – the Seaspan Alps, Seaspan Grouse, Seaspan Kenya, and Seaspan Mourne. The ships will be sold for USD 37 million, according to the company.Seaspan signed deals to buy the vessels during the fourth quarter of 2016 and, after taking into account closing costs and vessel improvements, expects to record a gain on sale of the vessels of approximately USD 14 million. The individual vessel sales are expected to close during the third and fourth quarters of 2017, the company added.Excluding the four 4250 TEU class vessels which are being sold, Seaspan’s managed fleet consists of 110 containerships representing a total capacity of approximately 900,000 TEU, including 8 newbuilding containerships on order. Seaspan’s current operating fleet of 86 vessels has an average age of approximately six years and average remaining lease period of approximately five years, on a TEU weighted basis.
There were hot dogs to sell and the collective thirst of the 38,000 plus had to be quenched by beer, soda or water. There were flags to be saluted, the national anthem to be sang, after all this was Independence Day. The Pirates did their best to put on a great performance for this July 4th captive audience because after all, if they didn’t there was a distinct possibility that a percentage of these “fair weather” fans might not return for an “encore performance.”The ball park was not filled because of some slick bobblehead marketing strategy devised and initiated by the public relations department of the battling Bucs. These fans were not here for the cotton candy or the frankfurters. No, these “pilgrims” were here cameras in hand posing by the Willie Stargell statue to invoke the spirit of the “Lumber Company,” remember them? My mind is swirling as Andrew McCutchen is jogging out into center field. Is this the new time machine working or is it just too darn hot in the press box?The story has it that PR man Jack McNamara was working to come up with a marketing slogan for the Pirates during the 1970s. His mother who loved baseball talked to him about something about the Pirates that stood out to her.McNamara recalled that she said; “don’t forget, they can really swing the lumber.’” He said, “a light bulb went off. I wrote down ‘The Lumber Co.’ on a napkin and slid it across the table. It now defines an era in Pirates history, and it defines a type of baseball played back in the ’70s when the Pirates had a lot of power. She was so proud of it.” Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, Richie Hebner, Dave Parker, Mike Easler and Bob Robertson were the free swinging, free for all sluggers that earned the Pirates their “Lumber Co.” slogan, used during the 1976 season.Here are a few tidbits from ‘The Gunner’ the late legendary Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince. In his raspy drawl, a smoldering cigarette sometimes hanging from his mouth he would be screaming at the top of his lungs almost blowing the speakers on your radio; “there’s a bug loose, on the rug. We had ‘em all the way. Shake those green weenies. What we need now ladies and gentlemen is a bloop and a blast.” “Come over to PNC Park yaw’ll there’s a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on. Yes, I said come on over to PNC Park yaw’ll, we ain’t fakin’, there’s a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on” Oh, I got a little excited pre-historic rocker Jerry Lee Lewis was the one who sang about a “whole lotta shakin going on.” Oh well, it’s still true. See, these boys called the Pittsburgh Pirates are shakin’, bakin’ and takin’ no prisoners. They are rumbling for first place.I am back into the conscious world now, boys and girls. The last out in the seventh inning there was a ball hit near the 410 mark in left center field that would have dropped in for at least a double but after pulling in the reins and waving off leftfielder Alex Pressley, Bucs’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen made a very difficult play look extremely easy coasting under the ball like a young Roberto Clemente. The only thing missing was the signature Clemente basket catch. What a week it was for Andrew McCutchen. He is now truly a young superstar or as the Pirates media folks would put it; “a star among stars.” In the week prior to the July 4th game against the Astros, McCutchen went 11-28(.393) hitting five doubles, one triple, two home runs, six RBI, six runs scored and an .857 slugging percentage.Will the Pirates ever win another championship or even advance to the post-season? That answer is too far beyond the intellectual capacity of yours truly and in all probability can only be answered by the baseball Gods but this 2011 team is playing more than .500 baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing Fortune 500 baseball.The Pittsburgh version of the “boys of summer” 2011 seems to have stopped staggering and now is in their swaggering mode. The Pirates beat the Astros 8-5 but the score matters very little. What matters most at this point in the Bucs’ history and their season is that they no longer require gimmicks to get fans into the ball park. As a matter of fact they may need a larger ball park if the team continues to play winning baseball. The crowd of 36,942 ensured the first time the Pirates sold out four consecutive games in the history of 11-year-old PNC Park. At the beginning of the season, I predicted that the Pirates would secure a wild card spot in the MLB postseason. All is now funeral home quiet on the western front. All those who laughed are having trouble rinsing the toe-jam taste from their mouths.(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: [email protected] or 412-583-6741.) I am sitting here looking out over PNC Park waiting for the game to begin. I have gorged myself with pulled pork (yuk) cold cuts, three cheese polenta and lots and lots of soda, courtesy of my ten dollar “donation” to the press cafeteria. Oh how I long to be independent from “multi-carbs” and smothered pork chops but, hey that is another story too lengthy and complicated to even attempt to expound upon in this limited space. First and foremost, the starting pitcher for the Bucco’s “holiday” game was Paul Maholm who entered the July 4th game with a 3.17 ERA. However before the Pirates batted in the bottom of the 3rd inning, the Houston Astros were leading 3-1 with the help of a Pirates shaky and unsettled infield. The Pirates also assisted Astros pitcher Brett Myers with some questionable base running but by the end of the third inning, the game was tied 3-3. Myers entered the game with a 4.60 ERA. The will of both pitchers at times seemed to be questionable.