Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa
Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa
Litigation News

In a democracy, fair criticism of the government functioning is the catalyst for better administration: Madras High Court

The Court made the observation while quashing criminal proceedings against Congress MLA S Vijayadharani on allegations that she had defamed the then CM J Jayalalithaa in a speech criticising the state's liquor policy.

Meera Emmanuel

The Madras High Court was recently prompted to observe that fair criticism of the government triggers better administration while quashing criminal proceedings initiated by the State against a Congress MLA in 2015 on allegations that she had defamed then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa (Vijayadharani v. The Public Prosecutor, Kanyakumari District and ors).

During a public meeting INC MLA S Vijayadharani is stated to have rendered a speech expressing anguish over the State Government's decision to reopen TASMAC shops.

The speech led the Public Prosecutor at Kanyakumari to present a complaint invoking Section 199 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), alleging that Vijayadharani had thereby defamed Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in respect of her conduct during the discharge of her public functions

However, in an order passed earlier this mont, Justice Dr G Jayachandran noted,

"The reading of the speech extracted above does not carry any sentence of defamation whatsoever. In democracy a fair criticism of the government functioning is the catalyst for better administration."
Madras High Court

The judge further cited a couplet by Saint Thiruvalluvar to drive home the point. Translated, the line reads,

"The careless king whom none reproves ruins himself sans harmful foes."

The Court proceeded to point out that in this case, the alleged imputations squarely fall within the second exception in Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with criminal defamation. The second exception states that,

“It is not defamation to express in a good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.”

Therefore, the Court quashed the defamation proceedings, while also noting that,

"The complaint, which is mere extraction of the legal provision does not disclose the mens rea to harm the reputation of the Chief Minister."
Madras High Court

Read the order:

Vijayadharani v. The Public Prosecutor, Kanyakumari District and ors.pdf
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