23 years after Delhi L-G VK Saxena’s complaint, activist Medha Patkar convicted in defamation case : The Tribune India

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23 years after Delhi L-G VK Saxena’s complaint, activist Medha Patkar convicted in defamation case

Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma posts the matter for arguments on quantum of sentence on May 30 at 2 pm

23 years after Delhi L-G VK Saxena’s complaint, activist Medha Patkar convicted in defamation case

Medha Patkar. Tribune file



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, May 24

Terming reputation as one of the “most valuable assets” which significantly impacted one's standing in society, a Delhi court on Friday convicted activist Medha Patkar in a criminal defamation case lodged against her by Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena in 2001.

“It   has   been   proved   beyond reasonable doubt that the accused (Patekar) published the imputations with the intent and knowledge   that   they   would   harm   the   reputation   of   the   complainant   and, therefore, committed an offence punishable under Section 500 of the IPC. She is hereby convicted of the same,” Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma said, convicting the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader of criminal defamation.

“It is clear that the accused’s actions were deliberate and malicious, aimed at tarnishing the complainant’s good name, and have indeed caused substantial harm to his standing and credit in the eyes of the public. The accused’s statements, calling the complainant a coward, not a  patriot,  and alleging his involvement in hawala transactions, were not only defamatory per se but also crafted to incite negative perceptions,” Sharma said, posting the matter for arguments on the quantum of sentence on May 30 at 2 pm.

Criminal defamation is punishable under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes a maximum punishment of simple imprisonment of up to two years or fine or both.

Saxena had filed a complaint against Patekar’s November 2000 statement when he was the president of the National Council of Civil Liberties over a defamatory press release issued against him by the NBA activist.

“Reputation is one of the most valuable assets a person can possess, as it affects both personal and professional relationships and can significantly impact an individual's standing in society,” the court said.

Metropolitan magistrate Sharma said, “…the accusation that the complainant (Saxena) was mortgaging the people of Gujarat and their resources to foreign interests was a direct attack on his integrity and public service.”

Saxena's testimony, supported by two court witnesses, showed Patkar falsely associated him with activities contrary to his public stance, the court said, adding Patkar failed to provide any evidence to counter these claims or to show that she did not intend or foresee the harm caused by her statements.

“The resulting inquiries and doubts raised among the complainant's acquaintances, as well as the shift in perception highlighted by the witnesses, underscore the significant damage to his (Saxena's) reputation,” Sharma said.

It was clear that Patkar's actions were “deliberate and malicious, aimed at tarnishing the complainant's good name, and indeed caused substantial harm to his standing and credit in the eyes of the public”, the court said.        

Patkar and Saxena have been locked in a legal tussle since 2000 after she filed a suit against him for publishing advertisements against her and the NBA. Saxena had also dragged her to an Ahmedabad court for making derogatory remarks against him and the matter was transferred to Delhi in 2003.

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