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Jammu and Kashmir High Court dismisses defamation case against Arnab Goswami and Aditya Raj Kaul

Dismissing the case filed by PDP leader Naeem Akhtar, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court observed that reporting of allegations against people holding official positions cannot be termed as defamatory. In 2018, Akhtar had accused Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami and journalist Aditya Raj Kaul of deliberately circulating “malicious news” about him.

Arnab Goswami, Naeem Akhtar and Aditya Raj Kaul. (Illustration: The Wire)

New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court dismissed the defamation petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Naeem Akhtar against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and journalist Aditya Raj Kaul.

In its order passed on Wednesday, the court said that reporting of allegations related to people holding official posts cannot be said to be defamatory.

The court, while making important remarks, said that it is the job of the media to report the day-to-day activities of public persons and public servants, which have an impact on the public.

According to the Bar and Bench, a single bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar quashed the defamation proceedings pending in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar.

A complaint was filed against Goswami and Kaul, who were then anchors of Republic TV, in July 2018 in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar under sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Ranbir Penal Code.

Akhtar had said that on July 4, 2018, Republic TV aired “derogatory and malicious news” about him. Akhtar was then an MLA and held the charge of the Public Works Department before the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government in June 2018. At the event, Kaul and others discussed the allegations made by BJP member Khalid Jehangir in a letter to the Governor on June 21, 2018.

Jahangir had leveled allegations of “corruption and favoritism” against a “close aide” of the former chief minister of the state (Mehbooba Mufti).

Akhtar said that even though no person was named in the letter, Arnab Goswami, while reporting the letter, “deliberately” mentioned his name in connection with the allegations.

He also alleged that the anchors of the program, including Kaul, were “repeatedly and deliberately mentioning Akhtar’s name in connection with the allegations made in the letter”.

Regarding this, the judge said that after ‘watching the program carefully’, ‘I do not think that there has been any allegation on the part of the presenters of the news programme’. The anchors and presenters only repeatedly referred to Khalid Jehangir’s letter and read its contents.’

The judge said the news anchors were only insisting that the source of their information was the same letter and added that the veracity of these allegations was yet to be ascertained.

According to Live Law, the court has explained the important functions of the media in its order. Describing it as the fourth pillar of democracy, Justice Dhar said that it is the function of the media to report the day-to-day activities of public persons.

The court said that what the anchors said in their program was normal, because if anyone has even a little knowledge of the power of Jammu and Kashmir, he can tell who was the minister involved in the work mentioned in the letter of Khalid Jehangir. Mentioning it by the anchors is not enough to substantiate one’s defamation claim.

The Court observed that it is clear that when a journalist publishes an accurate and true report in relation to a public person, which is already in the public domain, it cannot be said that there is any intention to damage the reputation of such person. was intended.

The court said that prohibition of such news would be an undue restriction on the freedom of the press guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The court also observed that in the present case the magistrate has not put his mind while issuing proceedings against the petitioner. He said that if the magistrate had considered the material available on record, he would have come to the conclusion that the alleged offense was not made out against the accused.