The trial Court had found Mishra guilty of the commission of the offence punishable under Section 500 IPC and, accordingly, he had been sentenced on 17 November 2017 to undergo simple imprisonment for two years with fine of Rs.25,000.
The Supreme Court has ordered that the appeal pending before the High Court against the Sessions Court order passed by the Special Judge, Prevention of Corruption Act, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in Sessions Trial No.573 of 2014 shall also stand closed.
The “reportable” judgement by the three-judge Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar places on record the three specific statements mentioned as defamatory in the State Government order of 24 June 2014 granting sanction for filing a complaint under Section 199(2) CrPC. These statements were made with regard to the Chief Minister during a Press Conference by K K Mishra on 21 June, 2014. The statements are as follows:
“1. 19 amongst the Transport Inspection appointed in Madhya Pradesh are from the in-laws house Gondiya (Maharashtra) of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
2. Conversation has been made with the accused persons of the Vyapam Scam from the mobile of Sanjay Chouhan son of Phoolsingh Chouhan-Mama of the Chief Minister Sh. Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
3. Conversation has been made from the Chief Minister’s house by an influential woman through 139 phone calls with the accused of Vyapam Scam Nitin Mahendra, Pankaj Trivedi, Lakshmikant Sharma.”
The order further says: “If the allegedly defamatory statements, already extracted, in respect of which sanction has been accorded to the Public Prosecutor to file the complaint against the appellant under Section 199 (2) Cr.P.C. by the order dated 24th June, 2014 are to be carefully looked into, according to us, none of the said statements, even if admitted to have been made by the appellant, can be said to have any reasonable connection with the discharge of public duties by or the office of the Hon’ble Chief Minister. The appointment of persons from the area/place to which the wife of the Hon’ble Chief Minister belongs and the making of phone calls by the relatives of the Hon’ble Chief Minister have no reasonable nexus with the discharge of public duties by or the office of the Hon’ble Chief Minister. Such statements may be defamatory but then in the absence of a nexus between the same and the discharge of public duties of the office, the remedy under Section 199(2) and 199(4) Cr.P.C. will not be available. It is the remedy saved by the provisions of sub-section (6) of Section 199 Cr.P.C. i.e. a complaint by the Hon’ble Chief Minister before the ordinary Court i.e. the Court of Magistrate which would be available and could have been resorted to.”
The Supreme Court has even censured the Public prosecutor, who had presented the complaint before the Trial Court under Section 199(2) Cr.P.C. The order points out that the Public Prosecutor was cross-examined and fFrom the relevant extract of the cross-examination of the Public Prosecutor, it is clear that the Public prosecutor had admitted the absence of any scrutiny by him of the materials on which the prosecution was sought to be launched. In fact, the Public Prosecutor had gone to the extent of admitting that he had filed the complaint against the accused appellant on the orders of the State Government.
On the conclusions reached by the Bench, the Supreme Court order says: “On the conclusions that have been reached by us, ….the conviction of the accused appellant and the sentence imposed would not have any legs to stand. The very initiation of the prosecution has been found by us to be untenable in law. Merely because the trial is over and has ended in the conviction of the appellant and the matter is presently pending before the High Court in appeal should not come in the way of our interdicting the same. The requirements of justice would demand that we carry our conclusions to its logical end by invoking our special and extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.”
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