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