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Directors Cannot Be Implicated Without Specific Averments: Aroon Purie Vs State Of Kerala & Anr

Mahima Prabhu ,
  18 January 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
High Court of Kerala, Ernakulam
Brief :

Citation :
CRL. MC No. 8 of 2020

Date of Judgement:
13/01/2022

Bench:
Mr. Justice Ziyad Rahman A.A

Parties:

Appellant –
Mr Aroon Purie, Chairman &Whole-time director,
TV Today Network

Respondent –
1) State of Kerala, Through the Public Prosecutor
2) Anil Kumar @ Chenthi Ani, Son of Lakshamanan

Subject

This case deals with defamation and the Kerala High court handles this case and stated that the procedures under the petition have been dismissed.

Legal Provisions

Section 499 IPC – Section 499 IPC talks about defamation

Section 500 IPC – Section 500 IPC contains the punishments for defamation

Overview

  1. On 03.08.2017, at around 10 p.m. Today TV, a news station, aired a news piece naming one Manikkuttan as the prime suspect in the assassination of one Rajesh, that happened on July 29, 2017.
  2. While broadcasting the above - mentioned news piece, the channel displayed a picture of the 2nd respondent, indicating that this was the picture of the abovementioned Manikkuttan. The petition claimed thatthe telecasting of the above-mentioned news storey, together with the picture of the plaintiff with the incorrect characterization, lasted for nearly three days. As a result, on October 7, 2017, a notice was issued, and hence the plaintiff then presented the complaint to the learned Magistrate, who took cognizance of it.
  3. The purpose of the instantCrl.M.Cswas to halt any and all actions in the stated case by arguing that the allegations in the claimed petition do not reveal any wrongdoing as opposed to the plaintiffs in this case.
  4. For the plaintiffs, Senior Counsel Hrishikesh Baruah, backed by Counsel John Varghese and P.M. Joseph, claimed that the case did not contain any facts.
  5. Despite the lack of concrete allegations, they claimed that the Chairman and Managing Director of the firm that own the TV station have been charged. This was also argued that the notion of vicarious liability does not apply in criminal justice unless it is expressly stated in the statute.
  6. Nevertheless, Anil Kumar's lawyers, R. Sunil Kumar and A. Salani Lal, argued that the petition contained sufficient evidence to attract an offence.
  7. They also cited the case of Mammootti v. Rajaji Mathew Thomas [2006(3) KLT 335], in which it was determined that a precise averment in the complaint was not needed to hold the offence under section 499 IPC.

Issues

  1. Whether the averments in the petition established a basis for drawing the charges chargeable under Sections 499 and 500 IPC?
  2. Whether the criminal defendants can be indicted for wrongdoing simply because they held high level positions in the corporation that runs the news station?

Judgement Analysis

  1. The role performed by the aforementioned alleged criminals in choosing, editing, and telecasting the above mentioned headline story was not disclosed, other than the averment that the guilty were Chairman and Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, and the owner of TV Today Network.
  2. Without particular averments pointing to their involvement in the offence, it was impossible to link the Directors to the crime, in accordance with Supreme Court precedent. In addition, there was no provision in the IPC for the Directors of the Company to be held liable for the actions of their employees.
  3. Mammooti's case would not have arisen if there was no clause putting criminal culpability on directors of a corporation just because of their position in the firm, as was the case.
  4. Therefore, the learned counsel for the 2nd respondent's claim that he may rely on the Mammooti decision was one that the court could not accept.
  5. Furthermore, the findings in Mammootti's case were a direct challenge to the legal principles given down by the Honourable Supreme Court in K.M.Mathew, Maksud Syed (Supra), Radhey Shyam Khemka, and numerous other judgments.
  6. The petitioner's second argument was that they were unduly embroiled in the case. Additionally, a pie chart depicting the ownership of the M/s TV Today network, which runs the India Today news channel where the episode aired, was created by the team involved. However, it was unable to determine the validity of this claim due to a lack of evidence.
  7. According to the Single Bench, the above mentioned rule did not allow for the establishment of a defamation lawsuit if the accusation is issued by the firm. Previously, it ruled that the complaint does not include any averments detailing the role performed by each and every accused person, and so no offenses are attracted against any of the petitioners.
  8. As a result, the court did not address the issue of the firm running the TV channel's shareholding arrangement, leaving it open for discussion. Because of this, the court believed the complaint fails to mention any of the petitioners' alleged violations of Sections 499 or 500 of the IPC. It was therefore ruled that all of these are permitted and that the complaint on file at the Judicial First - Class Magistrate Court –I Thiruvananthapuram and all subsequent procedures were so dismissed.

Conclusion

The Kerala High Court thereby stated that there is “No IPC provision for vicarious liability on company Directors; Cannot be implicated without specific averments”. As a result, I believe that the accusation fails to reveal any of the appellants' criminal offences under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code and hence I support the Judgement passed by the Kerala High Court.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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