The Supreme Court of India has passed several judgments related to defamation over the years, which have provided significant guidance on the legal principles and nuances involved in such cases. One such important judgment is the case of Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India, which was decided on 13th May 2016.
In this case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the right to freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions. The Court also held that the right to reputation is a fundamental right that is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Court further held that a person can be held liable for defamation only if it is proven that the statement made by them was false and caused harm to the reputation of the person who was allegedly defamed. The Court also clarified that statements made in public interest or for the public good would not be considered defamatory.
The Court also reiterated the principles laid down in the case of R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu, which is considered a landmark judgment on defamation. In this case, the Court held that the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to receive and impart information and that the press has a vital role to play in the dissemination of information to the public.
However, the Court also held that the right to freedom of speech and expression cannot be used to justify the infringement of another person’s right to reputation. The Court held that a balance must be struck between the right to free speech and the right to reputation, and that the law of defamation is one way of achieving this balance.
Overall, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India reaffirms the importance of protecting both the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to reputation. It also provides valuable guidance on the principles that courts should consider while adjudicating defamation cases.
The Supreme Court of India has passed several judgments on defamation cases, which have established important legal principles and guidelines for such cases. Following are the landmark judgments:
- Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India (2016): As discussed earlier, this judgment clarified the principles of defamation law, including the requirement that a statement must be false and must harm a person’s reputation to be considered defamatory. The Court also reiterated the importance of balancing the right to free speech and expression with the right to reputation.
- R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu (1994): This landmark judgment established that the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to receive and impart information. However, it also held that the right to reputation is equally important and that the two rights must be balanced. The Court also held that the press has a special responsibility to ensure that the information it disseminates is accurate and based on facts.
- Amitabh Bachchan v. Union of India (2010): In this case, the Court held that a person’s reputation can be harmed not only by false statements but also by insinuations or half-truths. The Court also held that the intent behind a statement is relevant in determining whether it is defamatory.
- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. v. SEBI (2012): In this case, the Court held that truth is a defence in a defamation case. The Court also held that a statement made in good faith and in the public interest is not defamatory.
- P. Chidambaram v. K. S. Alagiri (2014): In this case, the Court held that a statement made by a public official in the discharge of their official duties cannot be considered defamatory unless malice is proved. The Court also held that criticism of government policies or actions is protected by the right to free speech and expression.
These judgments provide valuable guidance on the legal principles that apply in defamation cases and emphasize the importance of balancing the right to free speech and expression with the right to reputation.
Defamation Case against Rahul Gandhi–
Rahul Gandhi, who is a prominent Indian politician and member of the Indian National Congress, has been involved in several defamation cases throughout his political career. In one of the most high-profile cases, he was accused of defaming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in a speech he made in 2014. The RSS, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization, filed a criminal defamation case against him in a court in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra. In this defamation case filed by Rajesh Kunte, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), against Rahul Gandhi, the former President of the Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi was accused of making defamatory statements against the RSS. The case was related to a speech given by Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in March 2014, in which he allegedly linked the RSS with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Recently on 23rd March 2023, Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi held guilty and sentenced to two years custody in 2019 defamation case. Rahul Gandhi’s statement that “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname? Over his remarks about the “Modi surname”, by a court in Gujarat’s Surat, sentenced him to go for two years jail custody. Further he was granted bail and the court suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court.
As per the Representation of the People Act, a person sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving time.
This case highlights the importance of ensuring that statements made in the public domain are based on facts and do not harm the reputation of individuals or organizations. It also emphasizes the need for a balance between the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to reputation.