BJD Member Calls for the Need of Better Defamation Laws in India
Lok Sabha MP and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) member Tathagata Satpathy has called attention to the country’s need for firmer defamation laws.
The reason for this is the inefficiency of the lower judiciary to handle ‘rare but vital’ cases as the one that happened in the DAV School, Chandrashekharpur, Bhubaneswar.
The case revolves around the death of a nine-year-old girl following a harrowing incident at the school, which the latter kept under wraps for the longest time. The girl was allegedly harassed by three Class 10 boys who also threw her off the first floor of the boys’ washroom window. She died within four days of the incident.
However, the school authorities kept mum about the entire incident. No case of ‘unnatural death’ was registered.
It was only after the news was leaked to Dharitri, an Oriya paper that the incident came to light. The newspaper carried an investigation that revealed the school’s negligence in dealing with the matter. The investigation also found that the three boys in question came from influential families, one among them being the son of an IAS officer.
The newspaper published a story revealing certain details and documents though it never revealed the names of people or the institution.
However, this report made the Principal of the school nervous as he called in a press conference to prove his innocence. In the process, he also gave out the name of the victim. The newspaper, at the same time, used the information against the school.
Ten days on, a defamation case was filed against the editor of Dharitri, Tathagata Satpathy. He was summoned by the court of sub-divisional Judicial Magistrate in Bhubaneswar. There was another case filed against him in Khorda, demanding two crore as compensation.
The case was being fought by the school and within three months the editor was charged with “2 months RI and fine of Rs 50,000.”
However, Mr Satpathy appealed to the District Judge court against the former judgement where it was set aside on merits of laws as well as evidence.
The lopsided judgement of the magistrate and the negligence of the school led the MP to speak out and raise the issue of the need of firmer defamation laws in the country. He narrated the entire episode in the form of tweets using the hashtag SpeechBill, almost making it a campaign to advocate against criminal defamation.