D.P CHOUDHARY & ORS. V. KUMARI MANJULATA

In the Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan,

D.P Choudhary & Ors. V. Kumari Manjulata

Citation- AIR 1997 Raj 170

Judge- Justice Mohd. Yamin

Petitioner- D.P. Choudhary And Ors.

Respondent– Kumari Manjulata



Introduction

Humans tend to value their reputation above everything as a good reputation bolsters numerous aspects of life. However, a bad reputation can tarnish a person’s image in society. Taking note of these prospects the Indian laws have effectively enforced that a person’s reputation is considered to be their property and one who damages another's reputation should be punished. The D.P Choudhary & Ors. V. Kumari Manjulata[1] case acts as a perfect example wherein the plaintiff’s reputation was at stake because of the actions of the defendant. When an injury is caused by an individual to another individual’s reputation, in such a case it is known as defamation. Defamation is considered an offense under both criminal and civil law. Every Indian citizen has the right to free speech under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution, but this right does not extend to publishing or disseminating statements that are defamatory to another person. The Rajasthan High Court's landmark decision, in this case, explained the nuances of the act of defamation.



Facts

· The plaintiff, Kumari Manjulata was a 17-year-old girl pursuing BA from a University. She belonged to an educated, reputed Mali family that had a very good social status and reputation. On the other hand, the defendant Durga Prasad was the principal editor of the Dainik Navajyoti newspaper and the charge of developing and planning textual materials to be printed in the newspaper.

· On 18th December 1977, Dainik Navajyoti published news that Kumari Manjulata eloped in the night with a boy named Kamlesh under the pretext that she was attending classes at her University.

· As a result of this publication, Manjulata's family faced a lot of shame and discredit in society. In the context of this slanderous news, the family had to encounter social backlash and found it difficult to arrange an alliance to marry Manjulata as her conduct was questioned.



· The Defendants, however, claimed that they do not know the plaintiff personally and the information was gathered by a trusted news reporter. The daily also argued that they published news about Manjulata so that she could be taken back to her family safely.

· The lower court ordered a fine of 10,000 on Dainik Navajyoti for publishing defamatory information on Manjulata without her consent. The defendants appealed to the High Court of Rajasthan, disagreeing with the lower court's judgment.


Issues

• Whether the derogatory information published by Durga Prasad and others in the daily newspaper Dainik Navajyoti was true or false?

• Whether the publication about Manjulata was done to harm her reputation?



Contention of Petitioner

The petitioners contended that the information published about Manjulatha in the newspaper was based on appropriate facts on the basis that it was collected from a credible source. The petitioners asserted that the information was gathered by one of their reporters who in turn received it from a police station. It was further claimed that the defendants did not know the respondent personally and thus had no purpose to defame or injure the plaintiff. It was also stated that the sole intention of the published content was that if any reader had come across Manjulatha they would make her return back to her parents.


Contention of Respondent

The respondent contended that the published news contained false imputations and derogatory accusations about her, causing her loss of reputation. It was further contended that the negligent manner of false publication led to utter suffering to her family besides making it difficult to arrange an alliance for marriage which was caused due to the inferiority complex so suffered. Thereafter, the respondents sued the petitions for Rs.10, 100 as damages along with an interest of 12%[2].



Judgment

In a civil appeal against the judgment and decree passed by Additional District Judge No. 2, Jodhpur in the case of defamation awarding Rs. 10,000/- as damages to the respondent, Justice Mohd. Yamin of the Rajasthan High Court determined that the publication of a fraudulent news item would lead the readers to have their reservations about the individual concerning whom such deceitful publications are made. The High Court did mention that the defendant had also asserted that they had no malevolent intent against the plaintiff. However, the Court on 4th April, 1997 ruled that it is uncertain as to how an individual can be held responsible in a situation where no malicious intent was claimed by the defendant towards the person so defamed. The Court in the present case asserted that the news published by the defendants has been proven to constitute defamation against the plaintiff, and consequently general damages will be imputed since all defamatory words are actionable per se. Because the remarks published were proven to be untrue and defamatory, general damages were inferred, and the court decided that the damages of 10,000 were justified. The Court finally concluded that the damages granted by the lower court in the present case were determined appropriately. Because of the failure of an appeal, the High Court of Rajasthan dismissed the present case[3].



Conclusion

In the age of increasing defamation suits “D.P Choudhary & Ors. V. Kumari Manjulata”case acts as a reminder to the media publications that unjustified allegations of a person that harm their reputation will lead to severe penalties. Any negligent and fraudulent publication of statements either with or without having the knowledge of the same in a manner that hampers the reputation of any individual in the society leads to the misconduct of defamation which is punishable both under the civil as well as criminal law as per the Indian laws. In the present case, the failure of the defendants to justify the true nature of the information published led to them being liable for the appellant’s loss of reputation and thus the payment of Rs. 10,000 monetary damages were justified.

[1] D.P Choudhary & Ors. v. Kumari Manjulata, AIR 1997 Raj 170 [2] D.P Choudhary & Ors. v. Kumari Manjulata, AIR 1997 Raj 170. [3] Sakshi Raje, Defamation - Law Times Journal Law Times Journal (2018), https://lawtimesjournal.in/defamation/ (last visited Jul 4, 2022).



This article is written by Kosuri Sohana Sriya Varma of Symbiosis Law School Hyderabad.



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