Alleging husband is impotent in pleadings could attract defamation proceedings, Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

Alleging husband is impotent in pleadings could attract defamation proceedings, Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

Meera Emmanuel

Alleging that one’s husband is impotent in pleadings filed before a court could also attract defamation proceedings, the Bombay High Court has held.

Justice SB Shukhre made the observation while dismissing an application filed by a wife against a Magistrate order issuing criminal proceedings on a defamation case brought by her husband.

After marital relations soured between the two, a family court eventually passed an order in the divorce case granting the husband custody of their child for some time. In the writ petition filed by the wife against this order, she alleged that her husband was impotent, owing to which they had experienced difficulties in conceiving a child.

Her pleadings had stated,

The petitioner wanted to avoid writing this in this petition but the conduct of the respondent compels her to write that the respondent is an impotent person and the child was born by medical ovulation period technique as was suggested by the gynaecologist.”

This prompted the husband to file a case invoking Sections 500 (criminal defamation) and 503 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code against her, following which the Magistrate Court issued notice as well.

While challenging the proceedings before the High Court, the wife contended, inter alia, that she had only made reference to the husband’s alleged impotency to explain that their child had been born with the aid of the medical ovulation technique.

However, the Court found that there was enough material to make out a prima facie case for defamation and criminal intimidation.

As observed in its judgment,

“Reading the aforestated allegation as it is and without adding anything to it or subtracting anything from it prima facie, one gets an impression that it is per se defamatory in character and has been, prima facie, calculated to cause harm or injury to the reputation of the non-applicant. It also gives an impression that apparently it has been made with consciousness about the repercussion that such a statement would have on the life of the non-applicant.

Even if the expression “impotent person”, as the learned Counsel for the applicant would like this Court to do, is read in all its contextual setting, in particular, in the context of the birth of the child by adopting a medical procedure on the suggestion of the Gynecologist, still the apparent harm that the expression “impotent person” causes, is not diluted or washed out.”

As for whether referring to the husband as impotent would constitute defamation, the Court remarked,

“…the word “impotent” when understood in it’s plain and grammatical sense, reflects adversely upon the manhood of a person and has a tendency to invite derisive opinions about such person from others and, therefore, use of such word and its publication as contemplated under Section 499 of IPC would be sufficient to constitute, in a prima facie manner, the offence of defamation punishable under Section 500 of IPC.”

The Court further noted that there is an allegation of the wife having threatened the husband of injuring his reputation if he did not heed to her demands.

They also show that prior to filing of the petition, the applicant had issued a threat of doing something so as to injure the reputation of the non-applicant, if the non-applicant conducted himself the way he was asked not to by the accused persons.”

All things considered, the Court found that there was no error on the part of the Magistrate in initiating criminal proceedings, given that, prima facie, both offences of defamation and criminal intimidation have been made out.

Accordingly, the application made by the wife was dismissed.

Read the judgment:

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