The Press has the Right to Publish a News item with its Necessary Comments and Views: Kerala High Court

The Single Bench of Kerala High Court had observed that the press has the right to publish a news item with its necessary comments and views. Such right cannot be defeated unless malafides writ large on its face and not concerning with a matter of public interest or public good. The contemptuous nature of news item, if it is connected with imputation of truth, which requires publication for the public goodwill not attract the offence of defamation. The Observation was made by the Court while quashing a defamation complaint registered against the Chief Editor, Managing Editor and Publisher of Malayala Manorama Daily.

Brief facts of the Case

A complaint was filed against a news published in the Malayala Manorama daily in relation to a Vigilance report against the R. Chandrasekaran (complainant) and three others. The Editors and Publishers approached the High Court against the Magistrate order taking cognizance of the complaint.

Observation made by the Court

  • The Court held that the press has the right to publish a news item with its necessary comments and views. It said that “The first proviso to Section 499 IPC has got a wide canvass in a democratic system and right to publish a news item with its necessary comments and views though sometimes contemptuous, cannot be defeated unless malafides writ large on its face and not concerning with a matter of public interest or public good. The contemptuous nature of news item, if it is connected with the imputation of truth, which requires publication for the public good will not attract the offence and there shall not be any misunderstanding with respect to the requirement to attract Section 499 IPC with the first exception therein. The news item published hence will not attract the offence of defamation as defined under Section 499 IPC”.
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  • The bench, while quashing the criminal proceedings, observed that: “It is the duty of the fourth estate to publish all news materials, especially having public importance and it is their further duty to comment on the news material with its pros and cons so as to enlighten the society to remain vigil on the matters of public importance. It would squarely come under the first exception attached to Section 499 IPC when it is done with bonafides for the public interest. The fourth estate is not expected to shy away from the matters governing public importance, but it is their solemn duty to serve the society with the news item with its pros and cons so as to bring the society more functional and vigil. The fourth estate being one of the rostrums to address and comment on each and every matter governing public interest/ public importance in a democratic society, the news item published with necessary comments, though sometimes contemptuous, may not itself amount to defamation as defined under Section 499 IPC, unless the same is lacking in good faith and not concerning with a matter of public interest or public good.”

Case Name: PHILIP MATHEW vs. STATE OF KERALA

Citation: Crl.MC.No.7758 OF 2016

Coram: JUSTICE P.SOMARAJAN

The press has the right to publish a news item with its necessary comments and views: Kerala High Court

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