A news item on various dates in the year 2007, allegedly making false implication against the second respondent-Rajiv Trivedi, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crimes and SIT), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, with regard to the Sohrabuddin encounter case was published by the appellants in the respective publications and was telecast on CNN-IBN. A representation was given by the second-respondent to the Andhra Pradesh State Government seeking previous sanction under Section 199(4)(b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (in short ‘Cr.P.C.’) for prosecution of the appellants for offences punishable under the above mentioned provisions. Accordingly, the previous sanction was accorded by the State Government in favour of the second respondent permitting him to file complaints against the appellants through the State Public Prosecutor before the appropriate court of law.
Pursuant to the above said sanction accorded by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh, the criminal proceedings were initiated by the State Public Prosecutor on behalf of the State of Andhra Pradesh against the appellants.
The State of Andhra Pradesh represented by the State Public Prosecutor filed the complaints against the accused-appellants for the offences referred to supra. The Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge before whom complaints were instituted by the State Public Prosecutor, has taken the cognizance of the offences alleged against the appellants and passed orders summoning them to appear before the Court for further proceedings in the respective cases.
Aggrieved by the summoning orders, the appellants filed an appeal before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, seeking to quash the same, urging various legal contentions.
The High Court after hearing all the above said petitions together, held that whether the same amounts to defamatory, libel or scandalous statements is a matter that has to be decided on the evidence to be adduced by the parties. The High Court further held that the appellants cannot claim to quash the criminal proceedings initiated against them and there was no merit to quash the said criminal proceedings against the appellants.
Aggrieved by the common order of the High Court, these appeals are filed by the appellants raising certain substantial questions of law for consideration of this Court.
Among various other contentions, the learned counsel for the appellants had also contended that the initiation and continuance of the criminal proceedings in the present cases hinder and hamper the very freedom of press which is most precious and constitute an affront to the Articles 19 and 20 of the Constitution of India. The said contention has been rightly rebutted by the learned counsel on behalf of the respondents by strongly urging that the reputation of an individual is also equally important and that the said aspect of the matter must be considered after adducing cogent and valid evidence on record by the Public Prosecutor before the learned trial Judge who shall then appreciate the same and record his findings on merits of the case.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case first of all took cognisance of the argument that the reputation of a person is as important as the freedom of press and hence, one can’t be given preference over the other. With this observation, the court held that it is important for the trial court to work on the merits of the case and examine all the evidences of the parties. Hence, the court held that the order of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh saying that the initiation of proceedings can’t be quashed is purely legal and does not need any revision.
The Supreme Court further observed that this appeal doesn’t raise any substantial question of law and hence, there is no scope for any interference by the Supreme Court of India, according to the appellate jurisdiction of the Court defined under the Indian Constitution.
Author: Akshay Goel, Hidayatullah National Law University