Delhi High Court refuses to quash criminal complaint against Aroon Purie for allegedly defamatory article in India Today

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to quash a criminal defamation complaint and summoning order against Aroon Purie in connection with an article published in India Today magazine in 2007. (Aroon Poorie vs State)

The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna.

The criminal case was filed against Purie in relation to a news item ‘Mission Misconduct’ which was published by India Today magazine in its edition dated April 30, 2007.

Purie inter alia contended that at the time of the publication of the news item, the allegation of sexual harassment and financial irregularity had already been made against the complainant and even steps for disciplinary proceedings had been initiated.

The news item, therefore, only reported a fact which was in public record.

The Respondent, on the other hand, maintained that India Today went ahead with the publication of an “unsubstantiated and unverified defamatory story” which was splashed it all over the world through the medium of internet, without any basis.

It was emphasised that the story was published much prior to the complainant receiving any show-cause for the alleged misconducts.

Till date, even during his retired life, the contents of the defamatory article haunt the complainant who is vigorously pursuing litigation, it was argued.

First, the Court opined that objection with respect to Section 196(2) CrPC was not relevant at this stage as a Metropolitan Magistrate, after due process of law and after applying her mind to the facts and circumstances of the complaint, had taken cognizance and consented, in writing, to the initiation of the proceedings vide a summoning order.

The objection in relation to violation of Section 197 CRPC was also rejected by the Court as Purie was neither a judge nor a public servant, and therefore, no sanction was required to initiate criminal action.

The Court further ruled that the enquiry contemplated under Section 202 CrPC did not necessarily mean an enquiry by examining witnesses or by holding an investigation into the case or in any particular form.

Noting that the summoning order for the offences punishable under Section 499/500/501/502 IPC read with Section 120B IPC was issued on the basis of pre-summoning evidence, the Court observed,

The Court ultimately concluded that there no ground to interfere with the ongoing trial under Section 482 CrPC and dismissed the petition.

The petition by Saurabh Shukla, the correspondent concerned, against the complaint was also dismissed.

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