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No automatic withdrawal of defamation cases, says High Court
Justice M Nirmal Kumar gave the ruling on February 11 while passing final orders on a criminal original petition from SR Parthiban, DMK MP of Salem, seeking to quash the defamation proceedings against him.
There cannot be automatic closure of defamation cases following issuance of a government order by a subsequent government, which withdrew all the cases filed against officials, MLAs or MPs or the Ministers, including the Chief Minister, of the previous government, the Madras High Court has ruled.
Justice M Nirmal Kumar gave the ruling on February 11 while passing final orders on a criminal original petition from SR Parthiban, DMK MP of Salem, seeking to quash the defamation proceedings against him that were pending before the District and Sessions Judge, Salem.
The charge against Mr Parthiban was that he had delivered a speech in June 2019, which allegedly defamed the name and fame of the then Chief Minister K Palanisamy.
The subsequent DMK government issued a GO on August 10, 2021 withdrawing the case against Parthiban from the Salem court, as per Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This GO was said to be based on the recommendations of the State Advocate-General R Shanmugasundaram and State Public Prosecutor Hasan Jinnah.
After considering the rival submissions and on perusal of the materials, Justice Nirmal Kumar pointed out that the accused person could not be released automatically based on the August 2021 GO.
The top court on August 10 same year had issued certain guidelines to check the misuse of prosecutor's power in withdrawing cases under Section 321 CrPC.
Further, the power under this section is required to be utilised with utmost good faith to serve the larger public interest and it cannot be used for extraneous and political considerations. The nature and gravity of the offence, its impact on public life, especially where the matters involve public funds and the discharge of a public trust, are to be seen. In the case of the sitting former MPs and MLAs, directions have been issued that no prosecution case shall be withdrawn without the lieu of the High Courts.
The judge, however, after perusing the GO and the complaint, observed that no imputations were made against the former Chief Minister in the discharge of his public functions by the petitioner. The petitioner belonged to the then opposition party and he had delivered some political statements in June 2019. The allegations made in the complaint were personal in nature and in no way pertained to the public functioning of the then Chief Minister.
"In view of the same, the complaint filed before the trial court is liable to be quashed," the judge said and accordingly quashed it.