Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai will face a criminal defamation case filed by a company, with the Supreme Court on Monday disposing of her plea seeking clarification whether a private firm can file a criminal defamation case citing a recent judgement.
Pillai, against whom Mahan Coal Ltd has filed a criminal defamation case for allegedly carrying out negative publicity and protests over purported irregularities in mining activities, said the company can have a civil remedy but not a criminal recourse.
A bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit said nothing remained in the matter as the judgement had already been delivered in the case.
“Nothing remains in the matter. We are disposing of the matter in the wake of the judgement already being delivered on the issue. You have the liberty to persue the remedies as per law,” the bench said.
The court also granted liberty to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who sought intervention in Pillai’s plea to file a fresh petition.
Pillai, in her petition, had said “a corporate entity cannot be imprisoned for criminal defamation and can only be fined. As such in the interest of Article 14 and equality before the law, it should be able to seek damages, not imprisonment”.
She had said she was “the victim of an abuse of justice and process, by which the respondent through Mahan Coal has used the criminal defamation provision in a strategy against public participation, association, discussion and advocacy.”
The activist in her plea said lodging of a criminal defamation case was not limited to this instance alone, but was “part of a pattern of strategic lawsuits against public participation whereby the corporations are using criminal defamation provisions to persecute and limit the discussions and advocacy, and association around issues concerning issues of public interest and participation.”
On September 5, 2016, the apex court had sought response from Centre saying “it is an important issue. We can’t just let it go. The issue needs to be examined.”