Necessity for decriminalizing Sections 499 and 500 of IPC (defamation), discussed

Madras High Court: While discussing the need to decriminalize defamation in order to
uphold the sacrosanct right of freedom of speech and expression, the Division
Bench of V. Ramasubramanian and K. Ravichandrabaabu, JJ., observed that the
question regarding the constitutionality of Sections 499 and 500 IPC is already
before the Supreme Court, and with the Law Commission of India and Amnesty
International chipping in the scenario vehemently advocating in favour of decriminalizing
defamation in India, it is impossible for the Court to hold that the filing
of a private complaint of defamation against a person for writing articles in a
magazine, could make that individual a ‘person with criminal background’, so as
to disentitle him to enroll as an advocate. The Court further observed that all
over the world, the countries are steadily moving towards decriminalizing

The petitioner (appearing for himself), was denied
enrollment as an advocate on the ground that a private complaint for defamation
was filed against him by a non banking finance corporation, against whom the
petitioner had written a severe critical piece in a  monthly magazine known as ‘Thuppariyum
Visaranai’. The petitioner contended that a person facing a private complaint under
Section 499 of IPC cannot be taken to be a person of criminal background, so as
to make him ineligible for enrollment as an advocate. The respondent was
represented by S.Y. Masood.

The Court firstly delved into the question of
maintainability of the petition, as the petitioner had withdrawn his earlier
writ petition. However the Court observed that the cause of action of the
present writ petition is not similar to the earlier petition, whereby the
petitioner’s eligibility under Schedule III, Rule 28 of Rules of Education,
2008 was in question. The Court however rendered its attention to the primary
contention of the petitioner regarding defamation. The Court perused the major
international conventions advocating freedom of speech and expression and major
statutes enacted in USA and UK where defamation has been decriminalized. [M.Nedunchezhian
v. Bar
Council of Tamil Nadu, decided on 21.07.2015] 

Source: Legal news India

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