Calcutta High Court
Calcutta High Court
Litigation News

Civil defamation suit cannot be filed against a litigant for statements made in Court: Calcutta High Court [Read Judgment]

"Courts in India have recognised that a litigant must be protected from further litigations for having made a statement perceived to be defamatory, in the course of a judicial proceeding", the Court said.

Meera Emmanuel

A single judge of the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday held that defamation suits cannot be filed for statements made in the course of judicial proceedings such as those in pleadings before the court (Atul Kumar Pandey v Kumar Avinash).

While dismissing a defamation suit brought by a man against his brother-in-law for having made certain allegedly defamatory statements in a divorce petition, Justice Debangsu Basak held,

"Courts in India have recognised that a litigant must be protected from further litigations for having made a statement perceived to be defamatory, in the course of a judicial proceeding."
Calcutta High Court

The Court reasoned that in the absence of any codified law governing civil defamation proceedings in India, the common law/English principle that "absolute privilege attaches to statements made in course of judicial proceedings and statements contained in documents made in judicial or quasi judicial proceedings" would apply in India as well.

Elaborating on the principle of absolute privilege, the judge explained,

"In a civil action for defamation, plea of absolute privilege has been held to be a good defence. Absolute privilege protects a statement as no action would lie for it, however false and defamatory it may be, even though, it was made maliciously and with improper motive. Parliamentary proceedings and judicial proceedings are some of the arena where absolute privilege can be claimed successfully."

As such, the Court proceeded to conclude that litigants in India are immune from civil defamation proceedings in so far as it concerns statements made by them in the course of Court proceedings. The judgment states,

"In a civil suit for defamatory statement, Courts in India have recognised and applied the principle of absolute privilege to attach to statements made in the course of judicial proceedings and statements contained in documents made in judicial or quasi judicial proceedings on the ground that, it is a public policy that, a litigant approaching the Court enjoys absolute freedom in making a charge and contesting a charge. A litigant must not suffer from any inhibition or threat of further prosecution or labour under any apprehension of the consequences of the statements made by such litigant in the course of a judicial proceedings."

The ruling was passed while relying on allied observations made by a Full Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Satis Chandra Chakraborty v. Ram Dayal De.

In that case, the Court had opined that in civil defamation proceedings, liability must be determined on the basis of principles of justice, equity and good conscience. It had added that "there is a large preponderance of judicial opinion in favour of the view that the principles of justice, equity and good conscience applicable in such circumstances should be identical with the corresponding relevant rules of the Common Law of England."

Placing substantial reliance on this ruling, Justice Basak proceeded to rule that if at all a litigant is to be proceeded against for a false statement made in Court, the proceedings would be initiated by the Court itself. In this regard, the judgment states,

"Courts of India have recognised that, in the event, a litigant makes a statement which is considered to be defamatory or in perjury, then, the Court before which such proceeding is pending can be invited to take appropriate measures with regard to such defamatory statements."

Advocates Dipak Prahladka and Aindrila De appeared for the plaintiff in the matter, whereas Advocates Chayan Gupta and Rajesh Upadhyay appeared for the defendant.

Read the Judgment:

Atul Kumar Pandey v Kumar Avinash - Calcutta HC Judgment.pdf
Preview
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news
www.barandbench.com