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SC stays Kejriwal’s defamation order against media houses

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court has put a stay on the order issued by the Delhi High Court to initiate defamation proceedings against media houses that have published or broadcast news that damages the reputation of the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the council of ministers and the government.

The circular was issued by the Delhi government on 6 May and had stated that media and other organisations could be prosecuted under criminal defamation charges for reports maligning Kejriwal and his government.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court has asked Kejriwal why he issued the circular. He is given six weeks to give his reply.

The court said that earlier the CM had approached the court seeking relief in a criminal defamation case. On the other hand, his government issues such orders against the media.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and P C Pant was surprised by the contrast when Amit Sibal’s counsel Siddharth Luthra said a government run by a man who had challenged the constitutional validity of criminal defamation provision in IPC had issued a circular “to deal with instances of defamatory imputations covered under Sec 499/500 of IPC against the CM and ministers”.

The bench said, “We agree with your (Sibal’s) contention that, on one hand, he claims to suffer but, on the other hand, intends to pursue case of criminal defamation against others. His government should explain why such circular was issued.”

The court had also entertained Kejriwal’s writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of criminal defamation provision in the Indian Penal Code. The CM had pleaded that it impaired the right to freedom of speech and expression.

The Delhi government had asked all its officials to lodge a complaint with the principal secretary (Home) if they come across any news item which damage the reputation of the chief minister or the government so that further action can be initiated.