Rashid Paul

HC dismisses Akhtar’s plea for quashing Abdullah’s defamation complaint

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Srinagar: J&K High Court on Monday dismissed a petition by Nayeem Akhtar, senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader, seeking quashment of a complaint alleging him of defaming Omar Abdullah, the then chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2010.

The defamation case was filed by the Omar Abdullah-led government through then Public Prosecutor Abdul Aziz Teli before Principal District and Sessions Judge Srinagar.

The case sought action against the Nayeem Akhtar under Sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) for leveling “false and baseless” accusations against Omar Abdullah that he received kickbacks to the tune of Rs 500 crore in the allotment of Rattle Power Project.

Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul, hearing the matter said the petition does not stand the test of law and is bereft of any merit.

“The petitioner has failed to make out a case for exercise of inherent powers under Section 561-A CrPC (Section 482 of the Central CrPC) to quash the complaint or for that matter the proceedings initiated thereon by the trial court,” he said.

He dismissed the petition and directed the parties to appear before the trial court on 20th of July, 2020.

The public prosecutor had also complained that Akhtar had also accused Abdullah of having incurred huge expenditure on the construction of his official residence besides pilferage of certain priceless antiques from the State Toshakhana.

The trial court had on 29th September, 2010, issued (bailable) warrant of arrest against Akhtar so that he could be produced before the court.

Aggrieved Akhtar approached the High Court saying there was no evidence in record suggestive of his leveling the allegations against Omar Abdullah. He pleaded that the complaint was malafide.

The Additional Advocate General of J&K, however, countered Akhtar’s lawyer saying “the complainant has made out a triable case”.

Hearing the parties, Justice Chaterjee observed “Section 499 RPC provided that whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said to defame that person.”

He said the scope of Section 482 CrPC is well-defined and inherent powers could be exercised by the High Court to give effect to an order under the Code, to prevent abuse of the process of court; and to otherwise secure the ends of justice. This extraordinary power is to be exercised ex debito justitiae.

The judge said “law does not prohibit entertaining a petition under Section 482 CrPC for quashing the charge-sheet even before the charges are framed or before the application of discharge is filed or even during its pendency of such application before the court concerned. The High Court cannot reject an application merely on the ground that accused can argue legal and factual issues at the time of framing of the charge”.

However, he made it clear that the inherent power of the court should not be exercised to stifle the legitimate prosecution but can be exercised to save the accused to undergo the agony of a criminal trial.

In case there is some substance in the allegations and material exists to substantiate the complicity of applicant, the case is to be examined in its full conspectus and the proceedings should not be quashed only on the ground that the same had been initiated with mala fides to wreak vengeance or to achieve an ulterior goal, he said.

Analyzing whether petitioner has made out a case to bestow him the relief as beseeched for by him in exercise of inherent powers under Section 482 CrPC , the judge answered in ‘negative’.

Insofar as the offence of defamation is concerned, even though the offence under Section 500 is non-cognizable under the First Schedule to the CrPC, yet the matter would not be governed by and fall within the categories of cases catalogued in Bhajan Lal’s case (supra), he said.

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