22 years after defamation filed, 3 acquitted

first_imgThe Esplanade Court recently acquitted three journalists who were dragged to court 22 years ago for allegedly defaming a public limited company by writing and publishing an article. On July 11, 1995, Shailendra Yeshwant wrote an article ‘Toxic wastes choke Vapi’s lifeline’ which was contributed and produced by Sanctuary Features and published in the newspaper News Times. The article talks about how untreated effluents were released in the Daman Ganga.United Phosphorus Limited engaged in the manufacture and marketing inter alia of pesticides alleged that the article affected its business and damaged the reputation of the company’s directors. It sued Mr. Yeshwant, Ramoji Rao (the Chief Editor of News Times), Ushodaya Publications (the printer and publisher of the newspaper, Ushodaya Enterprises Ltd., and Bittu Sahgal (the Chief Editor of the Sanctuary magazine) under Section 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.The order was dictated on August 4 and made available on the website on September 15. Judge K.G. Paldewar acquitted all five and said, “The company does not prove common intention printed in the article, knowing or having reason to believe that the same was defamatory and thereby committed an offence under Section 500.”The 108-page order said, “The article is not a defamatory statement and Mr. Yeshwant made the publication of the article for good faith in public interest covered as exceptions under Section 499 (defamation) and Section 500. The court said, “The government as well as Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation have been negligent in discharge of their statutory duties and they have by their inaction, connived or collaborated or abetted to the continued pollution by these 756 polluting units. The government, in particular, has shown little or no concern to the environment’s degradation in the State. It is guilty of total inaction in taking effective steps for protecting and/or improving the environment and thereby the quality of life.”Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Yeshwant said, “After 22 years, I only have to say, ‘Thank god it’s over’. It was very taxing for all of us to be present in court during all the hearings as opposed to the complainants.”last_img

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