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Calling a man impotent amounts to defaming him, says Bombay high court

Referring somebody as an “impotent person” reflects badly on his manhood and prima facie amounts to defamation, the Bombay high court said and refused to quash criminal proceedings against a resident of Andhra Pradesh by her estranged husband for terming him ‘impotent’.

mumbai Updated: Nov 11, 2018 09:35 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari
Kanchan Chaudhari
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
impotent,Bombay high court,manhood
The Bombay high court said the word ‘impotent’ in its plain and grammatical sense, reflects adversely upon the manhood of a person and has the tendency to invite derisive opinions about such person. (File Photo)

Referring somebody as an “impotent person” reflects badly on his manhood and prima facie amounts to defamation, the Bombay high court (HC) said and refused to quash criminal proceedings initiated against a resident of Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, by her estranged husband for terming him ‘impotent’ in her writ petition.

Justice SB Shukre said the word ‘impotent’ in its plain and grammatical sense, reflects adversely upon the manhood of a person and has the tendency to invite derisive opinions about such person. Therefore, the use of the word would be prima facie sufficient to constitute the offence of defamation, punishable under section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

The matrimonial dispute between the estranged couple had taken a bitter turn. After leaving her matrimonial home at Nagpur along with her minor daughter, the woman had filed a divorce petition before a local court in Rajahmundry.

After an interim custody order of the family court, she had approached the Bombay HC, stating in her petition that the respondent (her estranged husband) is an impotent person and the child was born by medical ovulation period technique as was suggested by the gynaecologist”.

Taking it as an offence, the husband then approached the local magistrate court at Nagpur, with a private complaint seeking prosecution of his wife and some of her maternal relatives for defamation, criminal intimidation, etc. The woman had approached the HC after a magistrate court on July 24, 2017, issued process against her and her relatives on the basis of her husband’s complaint.

The woman argued before HC that she did not intend to defame her husband by using the term “impotent” and that the term cannot be read in isolation. She claimed that she used the term because her husband’s medical condition, due to which it was impossible for her to conceive and that their child was born using an advanced medical technique.

Justice Shukre, however, refused to accept the contention. The judge said reading the woman’s statement the way it is, one gets an impression that it is per-se defamatory in character and has been calculated to cause harm or injury to the reputation of her husband.

The HC rejected the woman’s plea, saying even if the expression “impotent person” was read in all its contextual setting — in particular in the context of the birth of the child by adopting a medical procedure — even then the apparent harm that causes, is not diluted or washed out.

First Published: Nov 11, 2018 08:46 IST

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