Saturday, 12 December 2020

Whether the employer will be liable for defamation of employee if he conducts departmental enquiry against him?

 In the present case, the defendant has taken the defence of privilege. The question is whether the charge-sheet issued against the plaintiff, the enquiry report and the letter of dismissal of the plaintiff can be said to be protected by absolute privilege or qualified privilege?


37. The enquiry proceeding was initiated by the defendant by issuing the charge-sheet on the basis of information received that the matriculation certificate and mark-sheet submitted by the plaintiff at the time of his appointment were not genuine. The information was received from a reliable source and in my opinion could not be brushed aside as frivolous. If it was finally established that the information was true, that would have amounted to a criminal offence on the part of the plaintiff. Having got such information, it was incumbent upon the management of the defendant to hold an enquiry into the matter. Such enquiry was held as part of the management's duty and in larger public interest. As such, in my considered opinion, the enquiry proceedings and all publications made in connection therewith were privileged. As Lord Finlay L.C. observed in Adam vs. Ward, (1917) Appeal Cases 309, if a communication is made in pursuance of a duty, the same would be privileged. His Lordship was of the view that this privilege is qualified and may be rebutted by proof of express malice. In the present case, no case of malice has been established by the plaintiff. Hence, at least, the defence of qualified privilege would be available to the defendant.


38. The law is fairly clear that any step which is essentially a step in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding would be immune from liability for defamation as it gives rise to an occasion for privilege.  In O'Conor vs. Waldron, MANU/PR/0085/1934 : AIR 1935 PC 3, Lord Atkin observed that proceedings before an executive or administrative authority or a step to initiate such proceedings can only give rise to an occasion for qualified privilege. Gatley on Libel and Slander (5th Ed., page 181) states that no action will lie for defamatory statements contained in any document which is incidental to the proper initiation of judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, information, complaint, writ or petition by which the quasi-judicial Tribunal is set in motion.


39. I have no doubt in my mind that the protection of privilege should extend to enquiry proceedings conducted by an employer against an employee. It would definitely not be desirable if an employer in spite of receiving information that an employee is allegedly committing a crime or other wrongful act detrimental to the public interest, refrains from holding an enquiry into the matter for the fear of being exposed to a defamation suit. Such a position would be extremely harmful to the interest of the public at large.


40. The question is whether such privilege should be absolute or qualified. I am of the view that the privilege should be qualified. This means that if the plaintiff is able to establish malice on the part of the defendant in conducting an enquiry proceeding against him by issuing charge-sheet, the defence of privilege will not be available to the defendant. However, in the present case, the plaintiff has been unable to establish malice on the part of the defendant in conducting the enquiry proceeding against him by issuing charge-sheet which culminated in his dismissal order. I am of the considered view that the materials complained of by the plaintiff and forming the basis of the present defamation suit are protected by qualified privilege. The fact that at a subsequent point of time due to intervention of the Hon'ble President of India, the order of dismissal was withdrawn and the plaintiff was reinstated in service, does not change the situation.

 IN THE HIGH COURT OF CALCUTTA

CS 11 of 2006

Decided On: 17.02.2017

 Manik Lal Bhowmik  Vs.  Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

Arijit Banerjee, J.

Citation: MANU/WB/0098/2017

1. The plaintiff's grievance is that the defendant employer has defamed him. He has claimed a decree for Rs. 50 lacs as damages and an order of permanent injunction restraining the defendant from publishing further defamatory matters concerning the plaintiff. The undisputed facts of the case are as follows.


2. The plaintiff was appointed by the defendant as a Telecom Accounts Clerk on 19 October, 1973. Subsequently, he was promoted to the post of Senior Accountant with effect from 1 April, 1987.


3. By an order dated 18 August, 1983 the defendant directed the plaintiff to produce all certificates along with mark-sheets in original of all the examinations that the plaintiff had passed along with certificate from the Head Master/Principal of the institution that the plaintiff had last attended indicating that the plaintiff was a student of that institution. The plaintiff states that he submitted the required documents under cover of a letter dated 22 August, 1983.


4. On 30 July, 1993, the defendant issued a memorandum proposing to hold an enquiry against the plaintiff under Rule 14 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, in respect of certain charges particulars whereof were furnished in a statement of imputations of misconduct/misbehaviour annexed to the said memorandum. The articles of charges read as follows:-


ARTICLE-I


"That the said Shri Manik Lal Bhowmik applied for post of Telecom Accounts Clerk in the erstwhile Posts and Telegraphs Department (at present Department of Telecommunications) enclosing copies of marksheets and certificates in support of his educational qualification. He was selected for the post of Telecom Accountants Clerk and was appointed as such on 19.10.73 (F/N.), after completion of twelve weeks training from 6.8.73 to 28.10.73, in the office of the General Manager, Telecom Stores, 3A, Chowringhee Place, Calcutta 700013. He was subsequently promoted as Senior Accountant with effect from 1.4.1987 as per rules of the department.


Now it has been intimated by the Controller of Examinations, Dhaka, Bangladesh under his letter No. 1914/CON/92 dated 19.3.92 that the certificate for matriculation Examination (No. 29823) dated 24.8.62 has been verified and found fake.


Thus it is evident that the said Shri Manik Lal Bhowmik submitted false statement of fact at the time of initial appointment as T.A. Clerk which is 'a failure to maintain absolute integrity' and 'unbecoming of a Government Servant' in violation of Rule 3(1)(i) and 3(1)(iii) of the Central Civil Services (conduct) Rules, 1964.


ARTICLE-II


That the said Shri Manik Lal Bhowmik submitted false statement of marks purported to have been issued by the Headmaster, K.B. Union High School, Kalikapur, Noakhali at the time of recruitment as Telecom Accounts Clerk and had taken undue advantage in the selection list by becoming meritorious amongst the applicants for the same post. He did not produce the original and genuine copy of the mark-sheet issued by the board but submitted a statement of marks purported to be issued by the said Headmaster as it was easier for him to forge the same. Since the Controller of Examination Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Dhaka, Bangladesh has certified the Matriculation Examination Certificate No. 29823 dated 24.8.62 as 'verified and found fake' the mark-sheet stated to have been issued by the aforesaid Headmaster is also 'forged and fake'.


Thus Shri Manik Lal Bhowmik failed to 'maintain absolute integrity' and acted in manner 'unbecoming of a Government Servant' in violation of rules 3(1)(i) and 3(1)(iii) of the Central Civil Services (conduct) Rules, 1964."


5. The plaintiff replied to the said charge-sheet by his letter dated 21 September, 1993 denying the charges.


6. An enquiry proceeding followed. The enquiry officer found the charges to be proved and submitted a report to that effect on 20 May, 1999. The Disciplinary Authority dismissed the plaintiff from service by his letter dated 30 September, 1999.


7. The plaintiff made various representations to the Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology, asserting his innocence and the genuineness of his educational qualifications but in vain.


8. The plaintiff made a representation to the Hon'ble President of India on 18 February, 2002. He contends that the Hon'ble President of India caused a detailed investigation into the charges brought against the plaintiff.


9. By a letter dated 10 October, 2003, the Union Public Service Commission informed the Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Communications, Department of Telecommunications that the authenticity and genuineness of the Matriculation certificates submitted by the plaintiff had been confirmed by the concerned authority and on the basis thereof, the President has reviewed the matter under Rule 26A of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965. The Union Public Service Commission in the said letter recorded that both the articles of charge levelled against the plaintiff are disproved. As such the Commission advised that the plaintiff be completely exonerated on merits and reinstated in service with all benefits.


10. On the advice of the Union Public Service Commission, an order dated 17 November, 2003 was issued by the Director (Vig. P), Ministry of Communication, Department of Telecommunications, the operative portion whereof is as follows:-


"The President has carefully considered the advice tendered by the Union Public Service Commission. Considering the circumstances in totality and in an objective assessment of the entire case the President has accepted the advice of Union Public Service Commission for exoneration of Shri Manik Lal Bhowmik. The President has, therefore, ordered that punishment order No. VIG(TS)/91/020/IV/31 dated 30.09.1999, appellate order No. CGMTS/LC/338/MLB/Appeal/8 dated 16.08.2000 and revisionary order No. 1-5/2002/VigIII dated 27.03.2002 be quashed and Shri Manik Lal Bhowmik be re-instated with all benefits. The President has further ordered that the intervening period between the date of his dismissal from service and the date of his reinstatement in service be treated as duty for all purposed and full pay and allowances be paid to him for the period subject to the provisions of FR54(6) and (8)."

11. By an order dated 9 December, 2003, the defendant reinstated the plaintiff in service with immediate effect. Admittedly all arrear dues to the plaintiff have been paid.


Grievance of the Plaintiff:-


12. The grievance of the plaintiff is that by issuing the charge-sheet, the defendant has defamed the plaintiff. The charge-sheet contained libellous statements concerning the character and reputation of the plaintiff. By issuing the charge-sheet, the defendant has insinuated that the plaintiff is a dishonest person, has no integrity and has forged documents to gain material benefits. This has humiliated the plaintiff immensely and has harmed his reputation before the members of the society including his colleagues.


13. Learned Counsel for the plaintiff has argued that with the sinister motive of neutralizing the popularity and good reputation that the plaintiff enjoyed amongst his colleagues and in the society at large, the defendant cooked up false charges against him maliciously. The charges have been finally found to be baseless and a person no less than the Hon'ble President of India has directed quashing of the dismissal order and reinstatement of the plaintiff in service. This goes to show that the charges were brought maliciously against the plaintiff.


14. Learned Counsel submitted that by reason of the wrongful publication of the libellous statements concerning the plaintiff by the defendant, the plaintiff's standing in the society has been compromised considerably. His reputation has been tarnished wrongfully by the defendant. He has suffered immense mental pain and agony. Accordingly, he has prayed for damages and injunction.


15. Although no specific issue was framed by the Court as regards whether or not the suit is barred by limitation, since that point goes to the root of the maintainability of the suit, it is the duty of the court to consider the point of limitation. It is an established law that even if the defendant does not raise the issue of limitation, if the Court finds that the plaintiff's cause of action is time barred, it is the duty of the Court to reject the plaintiff's claim. Accordingly I had requested learned Counsel for the plaintiff to address the Court on the point of limitation.


16. Learned Counsel for the plaintiff submitted that the cause of action of the plaintiff was a continuing one and continued till the date of filing of the suit. In this connection he drew my attention to paragraphs 26 and 27 of the plaint which read as follows:-


"26. The cause of action for the suit arose on 19 December, 2003 and thereafter on all subsequent dates when the Defendant admitted the wrong committed by them by making false accusations against the plaintiff to discredit him. The defendant is having its office, which is the place of employment of the plaintiff at 3A, Chowringhee Place, Kolkata 700013 and also at 8, Esplanade East, Kolkata 700069 within the Original Civil Jurisdiction of this Court.


27. The cause of action for the suit commenced and continued when defamatory insinuations were initiated, published by holding enquiry at 3A, Chowringhee Place, Kolkata 700013 which is within the jurisdiction of the Court and also at 8, Esplanade East, Kolkata 700069, and till now are confirming which is also within the exclusive jurisdiction of this Court."


17. In this connection learned Counsel relied on a decision of the Hon'ble Apex Court in the case of Balakrishna Savalram Pujari Waghmare vs. Shree Dhyaneshwar Maharaj Sansthan, MANU/SC/0174/1959 : AIR 1959 SC 798, and in particular paragraph 31 of the reported judgment. He also relied on a decision of the Bombay High Court in the case of Abdul Hussain Shaikh Gulamali Jambawalla vs. M/s. Bombay Metal Syndicate, a firm, MANU/MH/0059/1972 : AIR 1972 Bombay 252, and in particular on paragraph 7 of the reported judgment. I will deal with the two cases later.


Contention of the defendant:-


18. Mr. Das, Learned Counsel appearing for the defendant urged the point of limitation strongly. He referred to Articles 75 and 76 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 and submitted that the time period available to a plaintiff for instituting a suit on libel or slander is one year from the date of the publication of the alleged defamatory statement. The concept of a continuing wrong does not apply to a case based on defamation. He submitted that a wrong is different from the effect of the wrong. The effect of publication of a defamatory statement may be continuing but the defamation is complete once the publication of the offending statement is made. In this connection, he relied on a decision of a learned Single Judge of this Court delivered on 14 March, 2014 in the case of Nandlal Rathi vs. The Kamalalaya Centre Shop & Office Owners Association & Ors.


19. The second defence urged by Mr. Das was one of privilege. He submitted that privilege covers everything that is done from the inception of a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding and extends to all pleadings and other documents brought into existence for the purpose of the proceeding starting with the document which institutes the proceeding, in the instant case, the charge-sheet. In this connection, Mr. Das relied on a decision of the Kerala High Court in the case of Thekkittil Gopalankutty Nair vs. Melepurath Sankunni Ezhuthaseah, MANU/KE/0064/1971 : AIR 1971 Ker 280. Mr. Das submitted that the charge-sheet and all actions and other documents pertaining to the enquiry proceeding held against the plaintiff enjoyed absolute privilege and no action for defamation can be based on the same.


20. Mr. Das then referred to page 108 of the Judges Brief of Documents which is a letter dated 2 August, 2000 written by the plaintiff to the defendant admitting his guilt and undertaking not to commit "the above type of irregularities" in the future.


21. Mr. Das finally submitted that at the highest the plaintiff could have run a case of malicious prosecution. But the plaintiff has not done so. There are no pleadings in the plaint to that effect. In any event, a suit on malicious prosecution also would have been time barred on the date when the present suit was instituted.


22. On the basis of the aforesaid submission, Mr. Das prayed for dismissal of the suit.


23. As recorded in an order dated 13 May, 2014, the then Learned Judge taking suit matters framed the following issues:-


(i) Is the plaintiff entitled to claim a decree for a sum of Rs. 50 lacs as damages in paragraph 18 of the plaint?


(ii) Is the plaintiff entitled to another relief?


Court's View:-


24. The right of each man during his lifetime to the unimpaired possession of his reputation and good name is recognized by law. As Cave, J. put it in Scott vs. Sampson (1882) 8 QBD 1 503, the law recognizes in every man a right to have the estimation in which he stands in the opinion of others unaffected by false statements to his discredit. The gist of the torts of libel and slander is the publication of matters conveying a defamatory imputation. There is no wholly satisfactory definition of a defamatory imputation. Generally speaking, a defamatory imputation is one to a man's discredit or which tends to lower him in the estimation of others or to expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule or to injure his reputation of his office, trade or profession or to injure his financial credit. Any imputation which may tend to cause the right thinking members of the society to shun or avoid the plaintiff is defamatory of him. To be defamatory, an imputation need not have actual effect on a person's reputation; the law looks only to its tendency.


25. In the present case, the allegations against the plaintiff that the defendant made were of forging or manufacturing his matriculation certificate and mark-sheet. Such an allegation indisputably amounts to an imputation of utmost dishonesty and lack of integrity of the plaintiff. Such imputations per se are clearly defamatory.


26. However, in the facts of the case two questions arise on the answer of which will depend the success or failure of this suit. Firstly, has the suit been filed within the time period specified in the Limitation Act, 1963? Secondly, assuming that the answer to the first question is in favour of the plaintiff, is the defence of absolute or qualified privilege available to the defendant?


27. Section 3 of the Limitation Act, 1963 provides that subject to the provisions contained in Sections 4 to 24, every suit instituted, appeal preferred and application made after the prescribed period shall be dismissed, although limitation has not been set up as a defence. Thus, it is obligatory on the part of the Court to dismiss the suit if it is filed after the prescribed period even though the defendant has not pleaded the defence of limitation. [Please see State of Orissa vs. Mamata Mohanty, MANU/SC/0110/2011 : (2011) 3 SCC 436]. Although where two views are possible, the Court ought to lean in favour of the subsistence of the right to sue and against limitation, but where the claim is clearly barred by time, the Court must unhesitatingly dismiss the suit.


28. Article 75 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 provides that the time period for initiating an action for compensation for libel is one year from the date when the libel is published. In the present case, the charge-sheet was issued on 30 July, 1993. The enquiry report was submitted on 20 May, 1999 and the dismissal order removing the plaintiff from service was issued on 30 September, 1999. Hence, at the latest the plaintiff's cause of action arose on 30 September, 1999 and the plaintiff ought to have filed the suit within one year from that date. Even though strictly speaking, in my opinion, the plaintiff's alleged cause of action arose on 30 July, 1993 when the charge-sheet was issued, to give the plaintiff the benefit of doubt I proceed on the basis that there was republication of the libelous materials on 20 May, 1999 i.e. the date of the enquiry report and again on 30 September, 1999 i.e. date of the dismissal order. It is settled law each publication of a defamatory imputation furnishes the plaintiff with a fresh cause of action. Even taking the most liberal approach in favour of the plaintiff, in my opinion, the plaintiff's claim became time barred on 30 September, 2000.


29. Mr. Banerjee, learned Senior Counsel drew my attention to paragraphs 26 and 27 of the plaint which I have extracted above. The statement in paragraph 26 of the plaint that the cause of action for the suit arose on 19 December, 2003 and thereafter on all subsequent dates when the defendant admitted the wrong committed by it is completely unacceptable. The alleged cause of action of the plaintiff first arose on 30 July, 1993 and again latest on 30 September, 1999.


30. Mr. Banerjee relied on the Supreme Court decision in Balakrishna Savalram Pujari Waghmare (supra). In that case, the plaintiffs filed a suit for declaration of hereditary rights as Pujari and for injunction against the trustees alleging wrongful acts on the part of the trustees. The plaintiffs argued that the conduct of the trustees amounted to a continuing wrong and as such fresh period of limitation began to run at every moment of time during which the said wrong continued. In that context, the Hon'ble Apex Court held that it is the very essence of a fresh continuing wrong that it is an act which creates a continuing source of injury and renders the doers of the act responsible and liable for the continuance of the said injury. If the wrongful act causes an injury which is complete, there is no continuing wrong even if the damage resulting from the act may continue. The Hon'ble Apex Court drew a distinction between the injury caused by the wrongful act and what may be described as the effect of the said injury. The Court held that the decree obtained by the trustees against the plaintiffs had injured effectively and completely the plaintiffs' rights though the damage caused by the said decree subsequently continued. As soon as the decree was passed and the plaintiffs were dispossessed in execution proceedings, their rights had been completely injured, and though their dispossession continued, it could not be said that the trustees were committing wrongful acts or acts of tort from moment to moment so as to give the plaintiffs/appellants a cause of action de die in diem.


In my understanding, the aforesaid decision helps the defendant rather than advancing the plaintiff's cause. The tort of libel is completed with the publication of the alleged defamatory statement. It is not a continuing wrong although the effect of the publication may continue. In the present case, the defendant's alleged cause of action crystalized on 30 May, 1993 with the issuance of the charge-sheet or at the latest on 30 September, 1999 with the issuance of the dismissal letter. Section 22 of the Limitation Act, 1963 provides that in the case of a continuing breach of contract or in the case of a continuing tort, a fresh period of limitation begins to run at every moment of time during which the breach or the tort, as the case may be, continues. However, the tort of defamation, be it libel or slander is not such a continuing tort as envisaged under Section 22 of the Limitation Act.


31. Mr. Banerjee also relied on a Bombay High Court judgment in the case of Abdul Hussain Shaikh Gulamali Jambawalla (supra). In that case, a learned Single Judge of the Bombay High Court held that where a purchaser undertook to indemnify a seller against the amount of sales tax that may be levied and the seller was required to pay sales tax, it was permissible for him to call upon the purchaser to pay the amount directly to the authorities concerned. Since on the failure of the purchaser the seller paid the amount, the cause of action to recover the same arose on the date when he paid the amount and not on the date when he was ordered to pay sales tax. I fail to appreciate as to how this case helps the plaintiff.


32. In view of the aforesaid, I have no hesitation in holding that the suit is barred by limitation.


33. Even if I have held that the suit is not hit by limitation, I would have dismissed the suit as in my opinion the impugned publication is privileged.


34. Privilege means that a person stands in such relation to the facts of the case that he is justified in saying or writing what would be slanderous or libellous otherwise. The general principle underlying the defence of privilege is the common convenience and welfare of the society or the general interest of the society.


35. Privilege is of two kinds, absolute and qualified. A statement is absolutely privileged when no action lies for if even though it is false and defamatory and made with express malice. On certain occasions the interest of society require that a man should speak out his mind fully and frankly without fear of consequences, e.g. in Parliamentary proceedings or in the course of judicial, military, naval or state proceedings. To such occasions, the law attaches an absolute privilege. It is based on the principle that the interest of the community at large overrides the interest of the individual.


A statement is said to have qualified privilege when no action lies for it though it is false and defamatory, unless the plaintiff proves express malice. These are, broadly speaking, communications made in the course of legal, judicial or military duty for protection of common interest or for public good and reports of parliamentary and judicial proceedings and proceedings at public meetings. When the defendant sets up the plea that the publication has a qualified privilege, the plaintiff must prove the existence of an express malice which may be inferred either from the excessive language of the defamatory matter itself or from any facts that show that the defendant was actuated by spite or some oblique motive.


36. In the present case, the defendant has taken the defence of privilege. The question is whether the charge-sheet issued against the plaintiff, the enquiry report and the letter of dismissal of the plaintiff can be said to be protected by absolute privilege or qualified privilege?


37. The enquiry proceeding was initiated by the defendant by issuing the charge-sheet on the basis of information received that the matriculation certificate and mark-sheet submitted by the plaintiff at the time of his appointment were not genuine. The information was received from a reliable source and in my opinion could not be brushed aside as frivolous. If it was finally established that the information was true, that would have amounted to a criminal offence on the part of the plaintiff. Having got such information, it was incumbent upon the management of the defendant to hold an enquiry into the matter. Such enquiry was held as part of the management's duty and in larger public interest. As such, in my considered opinion, the enquiry proceedings and all publications made in connection therewith were privileged. As Lord Finlay L.C. observed in Adam vs. Ward, (1917) Appeal Cases 309, if a communication is made in pursuance of a duty, the same would be privileged. His Lordship was of the view that this privilege is qualified and may be rebutted by proof of express malice. In the present case, no case of malice has been established by the plaintiff. Hence, at least, the defence of qualified privilege would be available to the defendant.


38. The law is fairly clear that any step which is essentially a step in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding would be immune from liability for defamation as it gives rise to an occasion for privilege. In Lincoln vs. Daniels, (1962) 1 QB 237, the question was whether two communications sent by the defendant to the Secretary of the General Council of the Bar alleging professional misconduct were absolutely privileged. It was argued that writing to the Secretary was the proper way of making a complaint against a member of the Bar and that the Benchers of the Inns of Court act in every way similar to a Court and therefore communication to the Secretary was entitled to the same protection as a communication to the Benchers, namely absolute privilege. It was also contended that if the defendant had said to the Benchers what he wrote to the Secretary of the Bar Council he would have been absolutely privileged and that it is not possible to distinguish between statements made to Benchers and those made to the Secretary of the Bar Council for the purpose of being transmitted to the Benchers. In that contest, Devlin L.J. held that absolute privilege covers everything that is done from the inception of a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding and extends to all pleadings and other documents brought into existence for the purpose of proceeding starting with the writ or other document which institutes the proceeding. In O'Conor vs. Waldron, MANU/PR/0085/1934 : AIR 1935 PC 3, Lord Atkin observed that proceedings before an executive or administrative authority or a step to initiate such proceedings can only give rise to an occasion for qualified privilege. In a number of cases, it has been held that report to the Police of a cognizable offence is absolutely privileged (See MANU/WB/0162/1939 : AIR 1939 Cal 477, MANU/TN/0150/1940 : AIR 1941 Mad 26, MANU/BH/0062/1962 : AIR 1962 Pat 229). Gatley on Libel and Slander (5th Ed., page 181) states that no action will lie for defamatory statements contained in any document which is incidental to the proper initiation of judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, information, complaint, writ or petition by which the quasi-judicial Tribunal is set in motion.


39. I have no doubt in my mind that the protection of privilege should extend to enquiry proceedings conducted by an employer against an employee. It would definitely not be desirable if an employer in spite of receiving information that an employee is allegedly committing a crime or other wrongful act detrimental to the public interest, refrains from holding an enquiry into the matter for the fear of being exposed to a defamation suit. Such a position would be extremely harmful to the interest of the public at large.


40. The question is whether such privilege should be absolute or qualified. I am of the view that the privilege should be qualified. This means that if the plaintiff is able to establish malice on the part of the defendant in conducting an enquiry proceeding against him by issuing charge-sheet, the defence of privilege will not be available to the defendant. However, in the present case, the plaintiff has been unable to establish malice on the part of the defendant in conducting the enquiry proceeding against him by issuing charge-sheet which culminated in his dismissal order. I am of the considered view that the materials complained of by the plaintiff and forming the basis of the present defamation suit are protected by qualified privilege. The fact that at a subsequent point of time due to intervention of the Hon'ble President of India, the order of dismissal was withdrawn and the plaintiff was reinstated in service, does not change the situation.


41. In view of the aforesaid, this suit is dismissed. There will, however, be no order as to costs.


42. Urgent certified photocopy of this judgment and order, if applied for, be given to the parties upon compliance of necessary formalities.



Print Page

No comments:

Post a comment