Medha Patkar convicted after 23 years in defamation case filed by current Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena

Arguments on the quantum of sentence will be heard on May 30.
Social activist Medha Patkar(File Photo | PTI)
Social activist Medha Patkar(File Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: Medha Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, was convicted by a Delhi court more than 23 years after a complaint was lodged against her in a defamation case by current Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena on Friday.

The court emphasised the importance of a person's reputation being one of their most valuable assets. Patkar's statements, the court held, were defamatory and intended to incite negative perceptions.

Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma convicted Patkar of criminal defamation under the IPC, which carries a maximum punishment of up to two years of simple imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Saxena filed the case in November 2000 when he was the president of the National Council of Civil Liberties, citing a "defamatory" press release issued by Patkar. He took offense to being labeled "a coward" and accused of involvement in hawala transactions.

The court noted Saxena's testimony, supported by two court witnesses, demonstrating Patkar's false association with activities contrary to his public stance.

Magistrate Raghav Sharma observed that accusing Saxena of mortgaging the people of Gujarat and their resources to foreign interests directly attacked his integrity and public service.

Furthermore, Patkar failed to provide any evidence to support her claims or demonstrate that she did not intend or foresee the harm caused by her statements.

"The resulting inquiries and doubts raised among the complainant's acquaintances, as well as the shift in perception highlighted by the witnesses, underscored the significant damage to his (Saxena's) reputation," the court remarked.

It concluded that Patkar's actions were deliberate and malicious, aimed at tarnishing the complainant's good name, and indeed caused substantial harm to his standing and credit in the eyes of the public. Patkar was found guilty under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC.

Arguments on the quantum of sentence will be heard on May 30.

Patkar and Saxena have been engaged in a legal dispute since 2000 when she filed a suit against him for publishing advertisements against her and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

In turn, Saxena filed two cases against Patkar for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement.

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