The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday quashed a chargesheet filed against Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Babul Supriyo for his remarks against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra during a television debate in 2017, Live Law reported.
Moitra had accused Supriyo of “outraging her modesty” and said that he made fun of her name during the debate by linking it to a local drink named “Mahua”.
A bench of Justice Bibek Chaudhuri, however, noted that the chargesheet filed by the Kolkata Police did not disclose that Supriyo had committed an offence under Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code.
The judge said that Supriyo’s remarks were nevertheless humiliating and defamatory. “It is expected from a representative of the people that he must be courteous in his behavior, dignified in his manners and cautious on his words spoken by him,” the judge said, according to Bar and Bench. “By making such defamatory statement to a woman, the petitioner prima facie not only humiliated dignity and honour of a woman, but also violated his constitutional oath.”
“It is undisputed that in course of a political debate, the petitioner [Supriyo] asked the opposite party No.2 [Moitra] as to whether she was intoxicated. The opposite party No.2 was at the relevant point of time an elected member of West Bengal Legislative Assembly and National Spokesperson of rival political party. She was not only a public figure, but is a woman. It is the Constitutional mandate under Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of state policy that dignity of woman must be protected and freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) is subject to reasonable restrictions and one of such restrictions is penal provision against defamation. The petitioner, it is already stated, at the relevant point of time was a Member of Parliament. He took solemn oath to bear faith and allegiance to the constitution.”— Justice Bibek Chaudhuri
“If doubt is raised in the mind of people from the utterances made by the petitioner that at the relevant point of time she was drunken and intoxicated, this would of course an act of imputation intending to harm the reputation of the opposite party,” the judge said.
Chaudhuri also said Supriyo’s comment was “a defamatory statement within the meaning of Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code” and Moitra was free to take legal action against him, The Hindu reported.
The judge also noted that the accusations made in the first information report against Supriyo constituted a non-cognisable offence under Section 500 (defamation) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and no police officer can conduct an investigation in such a case without a magistrate’s order, according to PTI. The Kolkata Police had filed their chargesheet against Supriyo in March, 2017.