The Karnataka High Court has convicted a woman under section 500 of IPC on the finding that the statements made by her against her husband before the Family Court in a matrimonial case amounted to ‘criminal defamation’.
Brief Facts of the Case
- The husband H.N. Nagaraja Rao, had instituted a matrimonial case against his wife in the Family Court at Bengaluru, seeking Restitution of Conjugal Rights under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
- Wherein the accused (wife) filed her statement of objections where she had made certain defamatory allegations accusing the complainant (husband).
- The Family Court, by its judgment dated 11-04-2005 allowed the petition and ordered for restitution of conjugal rights.
- In 2006, the husband filed a complaint against his wife alleging that the statements made by his wife in her objections to the above case have brought down his reputation and have resulted in his defamation. The court held the wife guilty under Sec 500 of the IPC and sentenced her to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of one month and to pay a fine of Rs 5,000.
- Later she challenged the order before the Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court-XIV, CCC, Bangalore which dismissed the appeal.
Observation of Court
While deciding both the petitions the Court framed the following issues
[i] Whether the complainant has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused has committed an offence punishable under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code?
[ii] Whether the sentence ordered by the Trial Court against the accused in C.C.NMo.11445/2006 on 25-10-2010 deserved to be enhanced?
[iii] Whether the judgments and order on sentence impugned under these revision petitions suffer from any illegality, impropriety, warranting interference at the hands of this Court?
The Court said it is clear that apart from filing the statements in the form of the statement of objections, in the matrimonial case, she has also revealed the contents of the same to the relatives and a friend of the complainant, which clearly establishes that there was publication as required under Section 499 of IPC of the alleged defamatory statement by the accused.
On the question of whether the alleged statements in the statement of objections are defamatory. The court reproduced the statement and said: “The contents of the statements of the accused suffice it to say, would per se reveal that the said statements are defamatory in nature unless they are shown to be falling within any one of the Exceptions to Section 499 of IPC.”
The bench noted: Though the learned counsel for the accused contends that she made the same in good faith, but according to the accused, they were the truth. If they are true and falling under the First Exception to Section 499 of IPC, then it is for her to prove that they were the facts. Admittedly, except making those statements in her statement of objections and reiterating it in evidence, she has not even attempted to show that they were the imputation of truth or that they were made in good faith. Therefore it can be safely held that the complainant has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused has committed an offence of defamation punishable under Section 499 of IPC, which is punishable under Section 500 of IPC. The Court also held that pleadings filed in court and depositions made in the case amount to ‘publication’ within the meaning of Section 499, and such statements, if defamatory, can lead to a conviction.
While setting aside the sentence the court observed that in special circumstances of the case, I am of the view that sending the accused to serve imprisonment, however small a period it may be, that itself would drastically affect her future as well as that of her daughter. On the other hand, since Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code gives discretion for imposing only fine also, the quantum of fine imposed by the Trial Court can be enhanced.
Case Name: Sushma Rani And H.N. Nagaraja Rao
Case No: CRIMINAL REVISION PETITION No.152 OF 2014
Coram: Justice Dr H.B.PRABHAKARA SASTRY