Defamation case: HC reserves order on Ranaut’s plea against Javed Akhtar’s complaint
The Bombay high court (HC) reserved its orders in the appeal filed by actor Kangana Ranaut against the criminal proceedings initiated by the Andheri magistrate court based on the defamation complaint by lyricist Javed Akhtar.
The actor’s counsel argued that the magistrate had not followed proper procedure and had initiated the proceedings based solely on Akhtar’s complaint and the police report without hearing her. However Akhtars counsel argued that the magistrate had three options to initiate criminal proceedings and after viewing the interview in which the actor had made the defamatory comments had rightly initiated the proceedings.
The single-judge bench of justice Revati Mohite-Dere while hearing Ranaut’s appeal was informed by advocate Rizwan Siddiquee that the appeal sought setting aside of the criminal proceedings ordered by the magistrate as well as the complaint by Akhtar.
Akhtar has approached the magistrate court last year alleging that Ranaut’s defamatory comments against him on national television had maligned his character and tarnished his reputation which he had painstakingly garnered over 50 years of his career in Bollywood.
The magistrate court at Andheri initiated proceedings against Ranaut in February and issued a bailable warrant in March after Ranaut did not attend the summons issued by the magistrate. The actor had then appeared and applied for bail, which was granted by the magistrate.
In her appeal in HC, Ranaut challenged the proceeding initiated by the magistrate and said that the magistrate had not followed the procedure as laid down under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). She alleged that rather than conducting the examination of Akhtar and witnesses himself the magistrate had only directed the Juhu police to conduct an inquiry. She had added that if such a practice was allowed it would set a wrong precedent for other magistrates and also affect the rights and liberties of other accused.
Pending a hearing of her appeal in HC, Ranaut sought a stay on the magistrate court proceedings and a declaration to term as illegal the signed statements of witnesses collected by the police.
Akhtar had however filed an affidavit seeking dismissal of Ranaut’s appeal on the grounds that the magistrate had followed due process of law and only after viewing the July 19, 2020 interview of Ranaut and going through the statement of witnesses that the magistrate initiated the proceedings against her. Akhtar had also alleged in the affidavit that the appeal was filed with the sole intent to delay the proceedings.
On Wednesday, Siddiquee submitted that the magistrate had passed orders mechanically without application of mind. “No material evidence was brought on record by the complainant (Akhtar) and the material was brought by a third party and the same was not examined on oath. However, the magistrate relied on it. He was duty-bound to determine the veracity of the complaint,” argued Siddiquee terming the investigation as one-sided as it was not done as per the stipulation of section 2020 of CrPC.
While countering the arguments by Ranaut, advocate Jay Bharadwaj for Akhtar said that due procedure was followed by the magistrate and in order to conduct an impartial inquiry, all people involved were summoned by him, however, Ranaut did not attend the court, hence the bailable warrant was issued against her.
After hearing both sides the court concluded the hearing and reserved its order on the appeal.
Meanwhile, the Andheri Magistrate adjourned hearing of the defamation suit filed by Akhtar to September 14 and granted Ranaut one last chance to appear before it.