Javed Akhtar defamation suit: Bombay HC dismisses Kangana Ranaut’s plea to quash defamation proceedings

Justice Revati Mohite-Dere said that no ground is made out for interfering or quashing the proceedings of the lower court’s order.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea filed by actor Kangana Ranaut seeking quashing of criminal defamation proceedings initiated by a Magistrate Court against her earlier this year on a complaint filed by lyricist Javed Akhtar in 2020.

Justice Revati Mohite-Dere said that no ground is made out for interfering or quashing the proceedings of the lower court’s order.

Akhtar had filed a complaint against Ranaut last year alleging that she had made defamatory statements against her during a media interview. The magistrate’s court had then initiated proceedings on his complaint and summoned her.

Ranaut’s lawyer Rizwan Siddiqui had submitted before the high court that the magistrate court had taken cognizance of the complaint ‘without application of mind’. He said that instead of conducting the inquiry himself, the court had relied
on the inquiry by Juhu police. He had also submitted that the court should have recorded statements of material witnesses relied upon by Akhtar to verify the complaint.

Akhtar’s lawyer Jay Bharadwaj had opposed the plea stating that proper procedure was followed by the magistrate. He also said that while the Juhu police had summoned Ranaut, she did not appear before it.

The high court said that the quashing of the proceedings was not sought on the merits of the complaint but based on the claim that the magistrate had adopted the wrong procedure to summon Ranaut.

The high court said therefore it was only considering whether proper procedure was followed. It said that as per the Criminal Procedure Code, the magistrate before issuing notice to Ranaut could have either conducted an inquiry himself, directed the police or any other person he thinks fit to investigate the complaint.

“The impugned order issuing process reflects that the learned magistrate saw the video of
the defamatory statement displayed on the National News Channel, perused the complaint, statement on oath, supportive police report under Section 202 CrPC and other material on record very minutely and carefully and after observingthat all the aforesaid material furnished a uniform assurance that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the applicant, proceeded to issue process against the applicant under Sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the IPC. Thus, the learned magistrate was not swayed only by the police report, but had considered all the aspects, before exercising his discretion to issue process,” the high court said.

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