SC upholds constitutional validity of penal laws on defamation

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In a landmark judgement the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the criminal defamation law and dismissed a batch of petitions by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) providing for criminal defamation. Ruling in this regard was given by two-judge SC bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant.

The petitioners had argued that the criminal defamation under these sections of the IPC act as a censoring device and contradicts article 19(2) of the constitution that imposes reasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression thus violate the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution.

Legal Provisions on defamation: Sections 499-500 of the IPC makes defamation a criminal offence and whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Background : Subramanian Swamy and Rahul Gandhi have been charged with criminal defamation under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC for their political speeches made in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively while Kejriwal is facing cases under the same provisions lodged by the BJP's Nitin Gadkari and others. 

Rulings of Supreme court :

Supreme court Ruled that Freedom of Right to speech and expression provided under Article 19 of Constitution does not confer any right to a person to trample the reputation of others which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Defaming a person amounts to offence against society and the government is entitled to lodge a case against a person under criminal defamation law. A person's right to freedom of speech has to be balanced with the other person's right to reputation and therefore the two Sections are necessary.

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