Big blow to Medha Patkar, court found her guilty in defamation case, has connection with LG VK Saxena

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
5 Min Read

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday held Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader and social activist Medha Patkar guilty in a defamation case filed against her by Delhi's current Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, nearly 23 years after the complaint was filed. The court said reputation is one of the “most valuable assets” and has a significant impact on a person's standing in society.

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The case was registered 23 years ago
Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma termed Patkar's statements tantamount to defamation and “designed to incite negative perception” and held the social activist guilty of the offence of criminal defamation under the IPC, punishable with a maximum simple imprisonment of two years or fine or both. Saxena had filed the case in November 2000, when he was the president of the National Council of Civil Liberties, for a defamatory press release issued against him.

'Reputation is one of the most valuable assets'
In his 55-page judgment, the magistrate said, “Reputation is one of the most valuable assets a person can have, as it affects both personal and professional relationships and can significantly impact a person's standing in society.” He said Patkar's statement calling Saxena “not a patriot but a coward” and alleging his involvement in hawala transactions not only amounted to defamation in itself but was also designed to incite a negative perception.

Moreover, the allegation that the complainant was pawning the people of Gujarat and their resources to foreign interests is a direct attack on his integrity and public service, the magistrate said. The court said Saxena's testimony, which was corroborated by two court witnesses, shows that Patkar wrongly associated him (Saxena) with activities that are contrary to his public stand.

'Patkar failed to produce evidence'
The court said Patkar failed to refute these claims or produce any evidence to show that she did not intend or anticipate the harm that would be caused by her statements. “The questions and doubts raised among acquaintances of the complainant, as well as the change in perception revealed by witnesses, underline the damage caused to his (Saxena's) reputation,” the court said. It said Patkar's actions were “deliberate and malicious, aimed at maligning the good image of the complainant and have in fact caused considerable damage to her reputation and credibility in the eyes of the public.”

'Patekar had issued the statement deliberately'
The court, considering the evidence presented before it, said it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that Patkar had published the statement knowing that it would harm Saxena's reputation. “Therefore, the accused has committed an offence punishable under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC. He is guilty of the offence,” the court said. The arguments on the sentence will be heard on May 30. The court considered three questions in its order – whether it is proved that the press note was issued by Patkar, whether the press note contained any allegations against Saxena and whether the accused had intended to harm his reputation by publishing the allegations.

Legal battle continues since 2000
It said there was no reason to believe Patkar's baseless claims and excuses for issuing the statement and the gravity and accuracy of the allegations showed that she had taken the step deliberately and her primary objective was to publicly defame Saxena's credibility and undermine his integrity. Patkar and Saxena have been locked in a legal battle since 2000, when Patkar had filed a suit against Saxena for publishing an advertisement against her and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Saxena had also filed two cases against Patkar for making derogatory comments against him (Saxena) on a TV channel and issuing statements that defamed the press.

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