The Bar Council of India is in favour of the government’s contention to retain the provision for criminal defamation in the Indian Penal Code. But at the same time, it is pitching for an amendment to the law “which will strike a balance — not allowing the wrongdoers to get away and, importantly, doing justice to those who feel they have
After the Centre filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, favouring retention of the provision for criminal defamation in IPC, Bar Council of India president Manan Kumar Mishra said, “The government is right in favouring it.”
However, he said it was important to strike a balance. “Those defamed without substance should have the right to seek justice and at the same the wrongdoers should not get away,” he said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs in its affidavit filed in the apex court has said there was a need for retaining Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC.
The submission came in response to the notice issued by the SC on a batch of petitions filed by Congress Vice- President Rahul Gandhi, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and Delhi Chief Minster Arvind Kejriwal, challenging the constitutional validity of penal provisions on defamation. They contended that Sections 499 and 500
violated the constitutional guarantee for free speech under Article 19(1)(a) and were anathema to right to life guaranteed under Article 21.
Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi told the apex court that setting aside the penal defamation law would lead to anarchy. ‘’We cannot allow a situation where everybody can say anything against anybody.’’
Mukund Sarda, one of the members of the Bar Council of India, said the existence of criminal defamation law in its current form was an attack on free speech and violation of fundamental rights of a citizen.
Advocate Sushil Mancharkar, who is a member of disciplinary committee of Maharashtra and Goa Bar Council, said there was in fact need to make criminal defamation law more stringent. “Under civil remedy, the loss of reputation is difficult to quantify. The cases drag on for years which mean those who have been defamed continue to suffer ignominy. And rubbing salt into their wounds, there is no jail term unless the guilty party failed to pay an amount decided by the court,” he said.
But, Mancharkar said, under defamation law, warrants were issued and the “accused” has to explain his conduct before the court of law. “Besides these, the provision of jail term also acts as a big deterrent,” he said, supporting the Centre’s affidavit.