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Public servant’s criticism in good faith doesn’t invite defamation: Punjab and Haryana HC

The HC decision came on a petition filed by a Haryana PR department employee posted in Panipat, against whom 22 villagers had complained to the-then Haryana CM, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, seeking his transfer.

punjab Updated: Feb 22, 2018 13:21 IST
Surender Sharma
Surender Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Public servant’s criticism,criticism in good faith,defamation
As per the Indian Penal Code (IPC), nothing is said to be done or delivered in ‘good faith’ which is done or delivered without due care and attention.(Representative image )

Criticism of a public servant in ‘good faith’ does not amount to defaming him, the Punjab and Haryana high court (HC) has said. The court said that conduct of a public servant can be criticised in the discharge of his public functions, so far as act does not appear to be defamatory.

As per the Indian Penal Code (IPC), nothing is said to be done or delivered in ‘good faith’ which is done or delivered without due care and attention.

The HC decision came on a petition filed by a Haryana public relations department employee posted in Panipat, against whom, 22 villagers had complained to the then chief minister Haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, seeking his transfer. The employee used to visit the village in a drunkard condition and used to abuse the villagers, they had alleged.

Following the complaint, he was transferred out of Panipat in September 2011. However, the order was withdrawn the next month after village sarpanch testified that the employee in question was a ‘good person’ having good conduct and his transfer be cancelled.

Thereafter, in January 2012, the employee filed a criminal complaint of defamation against the 22 signatories, alleging that their act amounted to defamation. After two rounds of petitions before the Panipat district and sessions court, which were dismissed, he moved the HC in November 2016.

The HC bench of justice Raj Shekhar Attri said the employee in question was a public servant and his conduct was subject to criticism by the public. “The villagers had sought the transfer on the ground that he had been abusing them and used to drink during his duty hours,” the court said, adding, “To the mind of this court, the accusation was for the sole purpose to get him transferred out of Panipat on the ground that the petitioner had been insulting and abusing the villagers under the influence of alcohol.” The defamation allegations levelled by him are protected under second exception of Section 499 (defamation) of the IPC.

Second exception IPC’s Section 499 protects the public for criticising the conduct of a public servant in ‘good faith’. It says, “It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.”

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 13:21 IST