The Calcutta High Court last week observed that writing a letter to the husband’s superior at work ‘in good faith’ intimating him about a criminal case lodged against the husband for inflicting torture would not amount to criminal defamation under Section 499 of the IPC.
Justice Ananda Kumar Mukherjee noted that the petitioner in her letter had made representation of facts which were consistent with the incidents relating to filling of cases for alleged torture. He further opined that there had been no ’embellishment of facts’ and that no coercive action had been sought by the petitioner against her husband vide the letter.
Here remains little to be said that the letter in question was a statement of fact instead of any imputation to harm the reputation of the opposite party.
Parties got married in 1990 according to Hindu Rights and Customs. Soon after the marriage the wife accused her husband of subjecting her to physical and mental torture on the demand of dowry from her paternal house. The couple was blessed with a daughter in 1994.
According to wife’s allegations, she made constant effort to adjust with her husband to maintain a peaceful conjugal life but the
the man continued to allegedly torture her and in 1997 the woman accused her husband of driving her out of matrimonial home along with her minor child after being abused and assaulted by her spouse and his elder brother.
The woman then filed a complaint under Section 498A in 1997 at the Behala Police Station. On completion of investigation police submitted charge sheet No. 105 dated 04.06.1997 against the opposite party/husband and his elder brother.
Learned Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate at Alipore took cognizance of the offence and transferred the case to the learned Judicial Magistrate 9th Court, Alipore.
In the meantime, the husband filed a suit against the petitioner wife under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, praying for a decree of restitution of conjugal rights. But later the husband amended the prayer and sought for a decree of divorce against the petitioner wife under section 13(1)(ia) and 13(1)(ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act, pending before learned Additional District
Judge, 1st Track Court to South 24 Parganas.
The matter was dismissed in 2006 with an observation that the husband cannot be permitted to take advantage of his own wrong, causing serious disruption in the matrimonial relationship and was not entitled to a decree of divorce.
Wife Wrote Letter To Husband’s Senior
In the year 1997, wife wrote a letter to her husband’s senior at the Indian Overseas Bank intimating him that he (husband) had tortured her and driven her out of the matrimonial home and that a criminal case under Section 498A IPC (cruelty) had been initiated against him following which he had been arrested and subsequently released on bail. The petitioner had enclosed a certified copy of the order and had requested the Manager to take such action as may be deemed fit under the facts and circumstances.
In 2009, husband filed a criminal complaint against wife in this matter after 12-years of the letter (that was written in 1997).
Calcutta High Court
Justice Mukherjee noted that there was matrimonial discord between the petitioner wife and her husband to such an extent that the wife was compelled to leave her husband’s home with her minor daughter.
Opining that it is obvious for the petitioner to take recourse to writing such a letter to her husband’s superiors under such oppressive conditions, the Court remarked,
This incident itself would heap insult and indignation upon a married lady having a child. Under such oppressive conditions it is only obvious that the petitioner would take recourse to writing such letter to Official Heads of the opposite party.
The petitioner wife cannot be faulted for taking recourse to law of the land for protection of herself and her daughter. She should have her right to ventilate her grievance as her human dignity was at peril.
Opining further that the the ingredients of offence of defamation are not attracted by the contents of the letter as they are covered by the Eighth Exception laid down under Section 499 IPC, the Court noted,
Preferring an accusation against any person to any of the persons who have lawful authority over that person, would not amount to defamation.
In the instant case the petitioner wife made accusation against the opposite party before his superior in office in good faith and consistent to her accusation made in the petition of complaint. Therefore, the same would not amount to any defamation as the same is excepted in the 8th exception.
It was also noted that any representation made by a person in good faith for protecting his/her own interest would not amount to defamation as the Ninth Exception under Section 499 IPC protects imputations made in good faith by person for protection of his or other’s interests.
The Court further observed that the Fifth Exception under Section 499 IPC stipulates that a representation would not amount to defamation if an opinion is expressed on the merits of any case in good faith which has been decided by a Court in respect of the conduct of a person. The court further remarked,
In the instant case on the basis of the material available in the Case Diary the bail of the opposite party was rejected by the court. Therefore, subsequent acquittal of the opposite party cannot undo his arrest and his released on bail by the court, therefore such representation when made in the letter would be covered by the 5th exception of section 499 of IPC.
Delay in Filing Complaint
It was further taken into consideration that the letter had been addressed to the husband’s superiors on May 24, 1997 whereas the complaint had been filed by the husband against the petitioner for criminal defamation only on June 8, 2009 that is twelve long years after the cause of action arose.
It was further held that the complaint filed under Section 200 CrPC by the husband against the petitioner alleging the offence of criminal defamation is barred by the law of limitation under Section 468 CrPC. Pursuant to Section 469(1)(a) of the CrPC, the period of limitation for taking cognizance in an offence under section 500 of IPC is three years from the date of its initiation.
Accordingly, the Court observed that case initiated by the husband is barred by limitation as the date of offence should be construed from the date of issuing the letter, that is on May 24, 1997.
Thus, the Court set aside the complaint lodged by the husband against the petitioner for the offence of defamation by observing that the same is barred by limitation and thus a continuation of such proceedings would lead to an abuse of the process of Court.
Leave Your Comments on this Case Below:
While matter is subjudice, should wives be permitted to tarnish dignity of husbands and hamper their professional lives?
READ ORDER | Wife Has Right To Ventilate Her Grievance By Writing Letter To Husband's Boss Even When #498A Case Is Subjudice: Calcutta HC— Men’s Day Out (@MensDayOutIndia) March 27, 2022
▪️Parties are separated since 1997 @narendramodi @AmitShah @KirenRijiju #IrretrievableBreakdownInMarriagehttps://t.co/p3cnxdKkO3
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