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Delhi court convicts Medha Patkar in 23-year-old defamation case filed by LG VK Saxena

Delhi LG VK Saxena had filed the case against Medha Patkar in November 2000 when he was the president of the National Council of Civil Liberties over a "defamatory" press release issued against him by the activist.

Edited By: Shubham Bajpai New Delhi Published on: May 24, 2024 23:31 IST
VK Saxena and Medha Patkar
Image Source : PTI VK Saxena and Medha Patkar

A Delhi court on Friday convicted Narmada Bachao Andolan leader and activist Medha Patkar in a defamation case lodged against her by Delhi’s LG V K Saxena. In a case filed over 23-years-ago, the court said reputation is one of the “most valuable assets” and significantly impacts one’s standing in society.

Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma Held Patkar’s statements as “defamatory per se” and “crafted to incite negative perceptions”, and convicted the activist of the offence of criminal defamation under the IPC which entails a maximum punishment of simple imprisonment of up to two years or fine or both.

Notably, Saxena had filed the case in November 2000. At that time he was the president of the National Council of Civil Liberties. He filed the case over a "defamatory" press release issued against him by Patkar.

“Reputation is one of the most valuable assets a person can possess, as it affects both personal and professional relationships and can significantly impact an individual's standing in society,” the magistrate said in his 55-page judgement.

'Remarks not only defamatory but also incite negative perception': Court

He said Patkar’s statements calling Saxena “a coward, not a patriot and alleging his involvement in hawala transactions were not only defamatory per se but also crafted to incite negative perceptions.”

“The accusation that the complainant was mortgaging the people of Gujarat and their resources to foreign interests was a direct attack on his integrity and public service,” the magistrate added.

While Saxena’s testimony, supported by two court witnesses, showed Patkar falsely associated him with activities contrary to his public stance, Patkar failed to provide any evidence to counter these claims or to show that she did not intend or foresee the harm caused by her statements.

“The resulting inquiries and doubts raised among the complainant's acquaintances, as well as the shift in perception highlighted by the witnesses, underscore the significant damage to his (Saxena’s) reputation,” the court said further.

Court calls Patkar's action as malicious and deliberate

The court ruled that it was clear that Patkar’s actions were “deliberate and malicious, aimed at tarnishing the complainant's good name, and indeed caused substantial harm to his standing and credit in the eyes of the public.”

Citing the evidence presented before it, the court ruled that it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that Patkar had published the statement knowing that it would harm Saxena’s reputation.

“The accused, therefore, committed an offence punishable under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC. She is hereby convicted of the same,” it said.

Although Patkar has been convicted, the arguments on the sentence will be heard on May 30.

Three questions court considered

In its order, the court considered three questions —-

  • whether the press note was proved to have been issued by Patkar 
  • whether the press note made certain imputations against Saxena
  • whether the accused by publishing the imputations intended to harm his reputation

Patkar and Saxena have been locked in a legal tussle since 2000 after she filed a suit against him for publishing advertisements against her and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

Saxena had also filed two cases against her for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement in 2011.

(With PTI Inputs)

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