The Supreme Court stayed the trial court proceedings in a defamation case filed by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia against BJP leader Manoj Tiwari.
The three judge Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian issued notice in Tiwari’s petition against the Delhi High Court’s dismissal of his plea challenging the trial court order summoning him in the criminal defamation case.
The counsel appearing on behalf of Tiwari argued that Sisodia could not have filed a defamation petition without going through the rigors of Section 199(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In 2019, Harish Khurana filed a RTI query which sought the details of the expenditure on classrooms in government schools. Thereafter, Tiwari held a press conference questioning the expenditure incurred out of funds of the public exchequer.
Consequently, Sisodia filed a criminal defamation case against Tiwari for alleging that he indulged in corrupt practices regarding the construction of Delhi government school classrooms. Then, summons was issued by a Special MP/MLA Court to Tiwari.
Thereafter, Tiwari moved the Delhi High Court challenging the said order.
The Delhi High Court had dismissed Tiwari’s plea by order dated December 17, 2020.
In the petition filed before the apex court, Tiwari stated that the Magistrate had taken cognizance of Sisodia’s complaint without jurisdiction.
As per Section 199(2) of the Crpc, in such a case, a Court of Session may take cognizance of such offence, without the case being committed to it, upon a complaint made by the Public Prosecutor in writing.
Further, the issue arises as to whether the statements made by an elected representative in his capacity fall within the scope of Section 499 of the IPC, when the statements are not per se defamatory.
Tiwari claimed that he had only asked Sisodia to come forward and explain the expenditure to the citizens of Delhi.