NBA leader Medha Patkar convicted in 23-year-old defamation case

The court stated that Patkar's statements were deliberate and malicious, aimed at tarnishing Delhi Lt Gov Vinai Kumar Saxena's reputation

Medha Patkar at a demonstration (photo courtesy @medhanarmada/X)
Medha Patkar at a demonstration (photo courtesy @medhanarmada/X)

NH Political Bureau

Medha Patkar, a prominent social activist who led India’s longest anti-displacement movement under the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), has been convicted by a Delhi court in a 23-year-old criminal defamation case.

The case, filed by Delhi’s current lieutenant governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena, in 2001, dates back to when Saxena was chief of the Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil Liberties.

Saxena had also filed two cases against Patkar for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement. Saxena alleged that in a press note dated 25 November 2000, titled 'True Face of Patriot', Patkar made several defamatory statements about him.

Metropolitan magistrate Raghav Sharma of the Saket courts found Medha Patkar guilty under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with criminal defamation. Under this law, Patkar can be punished "with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

After the complaint was filed in 2001, an Ahmedabad magistrate took cognisance of the offence under Section 500 of the IPC and issued a process under Section 204 of the Cr.P.C. The case was then transferred to a chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) court in Delhi in 2003, following a Supreme Court order. Patkar pleaded 'not guilty' in 2011, leading to the trial.

The court stated that Patkar's statements were deliberate and malicious, aimed at tarnishing Saxena's reputation and causing significant harm to his standing. It also emphasised that her accusations were inherently defamatory and designed to incite negative perceptions.

Patkar failed to provide evidence to counter her claims or show that she did not intend or foresee the harm these statements would cause.

The court noted that the resulting inquiries and doubts among Saxena's acquaintances, along with the shift in perception reported by witnesses, underscored the significant damage to his reputation.

In conclusion, the judge remarked that Patkar's decision to label Saxena a 'coward' and 'not a patriot' was a direct attack on his personal character and these terms were intended to diminish Saxena's esteem. The matter will now be heard for arguments on the sentencing on 30 May.

We attempted to contact Medha Patkar for her response, but were unable to reach her. We will include her comments once we receive a response.

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