Court convicts activist Medha Patkar in defamation case filed by Delhi LG V K Saxena

PTI, May 24, 2024, 6:39 PM IST

New Delhi: More than 23 years after the complaint was registered, a Delhi court on Friday convicted Narmada Bachao Andolan leader and activist Medha Patkar in a defamation case lodged against her by V K Saxena, the incumbent lieutenant governor, saying reputation is one of the “most valuable assets” and significantly impacts one’s standing in society.

Holding Patkar’s statements as “defamatory per se” and “crafted to incite negative perceptions”, Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma 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.

Saxena had filed the case in November 2000 when he was the president of the National Council of Civil Liberties 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 judgment.

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.”

Also, “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 said.

The court said Saxena’s testimony, supported by two court witnesses, showed Patkar falsely associated him with activities contrary to his public stance.

It said 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.

It said 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.”

Noting the evidence before it, the court said 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.

The arguments on the quantum of sentence will be heard on May 30.

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; and whether the accused by publishing the imputations intended to harm his reputation.

It said there was no reason to believe Patkar’s “bald averments and excuses” against having issued the statement and that “the gravity and precision of the accusations” highlighted that her action was deliberate and that her “primary objective” was to undermine Saxena’s credibility and integrity in public.

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.

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