By Divyashree & Ashlesha (Team LL.B Mania)
Defendant Appellant – D.P. Choudhary And Ors.
Plaintiff Respondent – Kumari Manjulata
Kumari Manjulata was aged about 17 years, living with her family. Her family was well- educated. Manjulata herself was a B.A. student. Her mother Nirmal Devi was M.A. B.Ed. Her father Mohan Singh was M.A. M.Com. and M.Ed, and employed as Senior Teacher. Her brother was a student at University. So it was well established that Manjulatha belonged to a distinguished and well-educated family. On a daily newspaper named Dainik Navjyothi there was a false news publication with unfair comments on Kumari Manjulata dated 18.12.1977 that she had eloped with her boyfriend named Kamlesh when she went out of her house for the purpose of attending extra classes in her college.
- Whether the news item published was true or false?
- Did the news article intend to harm the reputation of Kumari Manjulata?
- Was the lower court right in awarding damages of 10,000?
Argument of Parties
1) Defendant Appellants stated that they do not know the plaintiff personally and the news was collected by their reporter and he got this information from the police station. There was no intention to defame the plaintiff respondent. So there was no mala fide intention on their side to defame the plaintiff respondent.
2) Also they contended that the information they got was based on facts and was confirmed by the plaintiff respondent’s mother. But she wasn’t cross-examined. Hence it was not established that the information was true.
3) They stated that they sent the report for the newspaper publication with the good intention of getting back Manjulata to her Parents. But this was considered strange by the court because he had never asked anyone from the family to do so.
4) It was mentioned that the information was received from police constable Ramesh Chandra, but even Ramesh Chandra has not been produced in the witness box. So there is no evidence on the record as to what was the source of information to the police.
5) Any challan presented to Kamlesh or any action taken against him was not mentioned in the record.
6) There was no written information in any register to produce before the court.
7) Untrue facts were produced before the court about Majulata’s treatment and that her medicines.
8) Many witnesses from the Plantiff respondents side confirmed that the information published in the newspaper was false.
9) No such accurate evidence has been produced by the Defendant Appellants.
10) It has been stated by Kumari Manjulata that after the publication of the news article her family reputation has been lowered and her marriage proposals has been decreased. The same was proved by the evidence led by her witnesses.
This judgement is an appeal from the district judge’s decree. If the defendant has in fact injured the plaintiff’s reputation, he is liable, although he did not intend so to do, and had no such purpose in his mind when he wrote or spoke the words. Every man must be presumed to know and to intend the natural and ordinary consequences of his acts. The words are actionable if false and defamatory, although published accidentally or inadvertently. From the argument before the court, it was proved that the information published about the plaintiff was false. There is no clue or evidence from the respondent side about the validity of the information. So it was a false report due to which the plaintiff and her family’s reputation has been injured.
The primary objective of the law of defamation is to protect individual reputation. So though the respondent didn’t intend to injure plaintiff’s reputation, acted in good faith and they believe that the said information is true they are still held liable because the defence of privilege was not raised.
Because of the news article Manjulata’s reputation has been lowered down in society. Due to this false news, her family faced so many problems in finding her marriage proposals. As the words published were proved false and defamatory, general damages were presumed and the court was of the opinion that the damages of 10,000 were correct.
Reputation has its value in human life. It is one of the important and most valuable property. So any kind of defamatory statement about once reputation can lower it in eyes of right-thinking people. No one has the right to spread any defamatory statement about another person that affects their reputation, without any lawful justification.
During the decade of the increasing number of Defamation cases, judgements like the present, act as an eye-opener to all the media publishers that defaming someone’s reputation with false accusations leads to strict damages. In any defamation cases, the burden of proof lies with the defendant to prove that the mentioned statements aren’t false. The defendants were not able to provide sufficient evidence to prove that the news article was based on facts and hence they were held liable. Moreover the news article in discussion injured the reputation of the plaintiff gravely. So the damages awarded are not excessive.
 (Law of Defamation and Malicious Prosecution), by V. Mitter 7th Edition page 152.)