Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: After over seven years of receiving alleged ‘defamatory’ emails, the former vice president of Minorities Commission Abraham Mathai recently received a setback from the Bombay High Court. The HC has dismissed Mathai’s plea challenging the manner in which his statements were verified by a Magistrate, who is dealing with the defamation suit.

A bench of Justice Bharati Dangre dismissed the criminal application filed by Mathai against the manner in which a Magistrate recorded or verified his statements.

The defamation suit pertains to a 2012 ‘mass-email’ sent to several members of the Catholic group. The emails allegedly used a foul language against Mathai. Apart from these emails, there were also some text messages sent to Mathai’s personal phone threatening him of dire consequences.

The Mumbai Police’s cyber cell had later on traced the emails to the IP address of Joseph Dias, the then general secretary, Catholic-Christian Secular Forum. Dias had, however, condemned the said emails.

Before Justice Dangre, Mathai argued that the laws that provide verification of the complaints under the Information and Technology Act, is to only ascertain the veracity of the complaint and it should meet the basic requirement of making of statement as to how the offence has been committed and how the accused persons are responsible. It must give the required events and dates along with allegations/imputations and such statement must be recorded by the Magistrate.

Mathai further argued that no such procedure was adopted by the Magistrate while verifying his complaint against Dias and others.

On the other hand, Dias’ counsel argued that the verification statement contain the gist of the allegations contained in the complaint and that is sufficient material for the Magistrate taking cognizance and acting upon the same.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Dangre said, “The provision casts a duty on the Magistrate to ascertain from the complainant the gist of his allegation as contained in the complaint and he would also ascertain and verify whether the offence as tried to be made out in the complaint is made out by specifying the ingredients and unless the verification statement substantiate the allegations/ imputations against an accused, there will be no issuance of process by the Magistrate.”

“It is no doubt true that the entire exercise is to be undertaken to ascertain, determine and get an assurance about the particulars mentioned in the complaint and that they are substantiated in form of the verification statement and it is only on being satisfied that it does so, the Magistrate is duty bound to issue a process,” the court noted.

The court further noted that the verified statement clearly sets out that the accused used to send threatening messages through his personal mobile via SMS thereby threatening him of dire consequences and also it had of bad language, which was alleged to be not tolerated by any normal man in the society.

“The effect of such action is also stated in the verified statement of the complainant which has resulted his reputation being lowered in the society and that he has faced various problems in his day to day life. Thus, I am of the considered view that contain the gist of the imputations levelled against the accused by making reference to the necessary facts. The application being without any merits deserves to be dismissed,” Justice Dangre ruled.

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