D.P. Choudhary and Ors. v. Kumari Manjulata (AIR 1997, RAJ 170)
By Shweta Nair
Facts of the case:
Kumari Manjulata, the plaintiff-respondent in this case was a 17-year-old, pursuing B.A in a near by college and her mother Nirmala Devi was a M.A, B.Ed. and her father Mohan Singh was a senior teacher who had completed his M.A., M.COM and M.Ed. with her brother being a university student. Her family actually belonged to the Malis Community in Jodhpur which was considered uneducated community but her family was regarded as highly educated being since they all were well-educated. Durga Prasad Choudhary- the principal editor of Dainik Navjyoti- the daily newspaper was the defendant-appellants which also included Deen Bahdhu Choudhary, the managing editor and printer and publisher of the newspaper who had published a false newspaper report on 18th December 1977 about Manjulata eloping with her boyfriend Kamlesh thereby affecting her and her family deeply.
Issues involved in the case:
Whether the published news report in the daily newspaper about Manjulata true or false?
Whether such a publication was intended to harm Manjulata’s reputation?
Whether the lower court’s decision to award Rs.10,000 as damages, correct?
Arguments of the Plaintiff-Respondent:
Manjulata and her family were severally defamed and mocked upon by their relatives. Manjulata’s friends and others in the school even stopped talking to her. They faced disrespect in the society. Manjulata also felt inferiority complex. Marriage proposals for her also went down. It led to a deep irreversible scar on her and family’s reputation. She was utterly disappointed and the entire family had to suffer due to the false report maliciously made without any sufficient evidence. The principal editor of the daily newspaper was sent a notice claiming damages of Rs.10,100 along with 12% interest but it was never heeded upon.
Arguments of the Defendant-Appellant:
The Defendant-Appellants stated that it was their reporter who went to the police station and collected this fact hence this fact was true and correct as it was received from the police station and for further verification of this fact, they also approached Manjulata’s mother. Manjulata and her family are not known to the Defendant-Appellants and therefore could not have any malafide intention to harm their reputation or make them suffer or defame them. Their only motive was that if someone knew Manjulata and would have seen her and read the newspaper, that would have helped Manjulata return back home.
Judgement of the Case:
This case was brought before this court in appeal to the Additional District Judge’s decree. The Hon’ble Court of Rajasthan stated that it doesn’t matter whether the intention or motive behind the publication of matter was bonafide or malafide, he or she would be liable for defamation, whatsoever. Defamation is harming or injuring the reputation of a third person by a false statement which can be either spoken or written. Here, the defendant-appellants by the publication of false and unfair statements in the daily newspaper by relying from the source of police station had caused huge suffering to the family who faced disrespect and hatred from their known people. They argued that they had verified from her mother but this statement seems to be untrue as mother was not cross-examined at all. This makes it sure that they published the report without proper verification. It’s claimed that Ramesh Chandra, the constable had given them the information but he also was not produced before the court and not even any challan against Kamlesh was there in the record. Also, one witness from the defendant’s side claimed that Nirmala had come to his shop to buy for her daughter medicines for irregular menses and at that time, she said to him that her daughter had run away. This statement seems to be absurd as why will the mother come to buy medicines for her daughter if she had run away? Besides, it is no justification to state that they did not intend to harm Manjulata’s reputation. The law of defamation aims to protect an individual’s reputation in the society. Though the defendant appellants in a bonafide manner believed that the statements were true, they would still be made liable unless defence of privilege was raised. Due to his, the kind of disreputation and suffering faced by Manjulata and her family cannot be taken lightly. Many marriage proposals failed and severe hatred was faced by the family. Considering all this, the court held that the defendant appellants statement is defamatory and are therefore liable to pay damages of Rs.10,000 and felt that the amount awarded by the lower court was rightly appropriate. The appeal failed and the case got dismissed.
Without proper verification, it was wrong on the part of defendant-appellants to straightaway publish such a report as it is defaming a particular person which would affect his or her life entirely. Its generally presumed that any human being would have the bare minimum knowledge of the aftermath of such a publication on the person about whom its written. So, the court was right to award such damages since it caused injury to the reputation of the family. The scars left on them are too deep to go soon but the family can be provided justice by such damages only.