HC quashes criminal defamation proceedings against ex-managing trustee of Tata Trusts
The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday quashed the criminal defamation proceedings issued against R Venkatramanan, ex-managing trustee of Tata Trusts, on the basis of a complaint filed by Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Private Limited.
The complaint was filed after the fallout between Tata Sons chairman emeritus, Ratan Tata, and Cyrus Mistry of Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Private Limited, following the latter’s ouster as the chairman of Tata Sons in 2016.
According to the complaint, Venkatramanan, the then managing trustee of Tata Trusts, had made a defamatory statement against Shapoorji Pallonji and Company in a press note issued by him on March 30, 2018.
Acting on the complaint, the additional chief metropolitan magistrate at Balard Pier had issued criminal defamation proceedings against Venkatramanan on October 11, 2018, under section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Venkatramanan then approached the HC, seeking quashing of the criminal proceedings.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar, on Wednesday, accepted Venkatramanan’s plea and struck down the proceedings.
“The words which are used in the press note are not at all defamatory… They are moderate and temperate. They do not invite contempt, ridicule or hatred against the persons mentioned in the press note and much less the complainant,” said the judge.
“Certain statements, if found incorrect, can be corrected without labelling them defamatory. The words used and the statement made in the press note cannot be perceived as defamatory.”
The judge said the allegedly offensive words used in the press note were “motivated, baseless and smear campaign”.
“Smear means damaging the reputation by false accusation,” the judge said, clarifying that the words were required to be read in the entire context.
“The petitioner has made this statement with the reference to earlier disputes. As mentioned in the beginning, the matter carries a baggage of accusations, denials, claims and disclaimer. Both the parties are from the business world. Although they initially worked together, today, they are at loggerheads.”
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