MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday (Sept 8) dismissed a plea filed by actor Kangana Ranaut seeking the quashing of proceedings initiated against her by a local court on a criminal defamation complaint filed by lyricist Javed Akhtar.
Justice Revati Mohite-Dere said in the order that there was no procedural illegality or irregularity in the Andheri metropolitan magistrate’s order initiating the proceedings. Ranaut, in the petition filed through her lawyer Rizwan Siddiquee, had challenged the defamation proceedings initiated earlier this year, saying the magistrate’s court did not independently examine the complainant (Akhtar) or witnesses. It relied solely on the report filed by Juhu police, the petition contended.
Advocate Siddiquee argued that the police’s inquiry into Akhtar’s complaint was “one sided.” Also, the police collected signed statements from witnesses illegally, he alleged. Akhtar’s lawyer Jay Bharadwaj argued that the magistrate directed police inquiry only after going through the complaint and excerpts of the interview in which Ranaut had made the alleged defamatory comments. The police summoned witnesses and Ranaut herself during its inquriy, but the actor never responded to the summons, he claimed.
In its order, the HC held that the Andheri court had followed the procedure prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure. The magistrate personally examined Akhtar and went through the detailed complaint, the high court noted.
“As far as the impugned order issuing process is concerned, the same is not solely based on the police report, but is a combined analysis of the verification of the statement of the complainant, averment in the complaint, the CD/pen-drive, police report, and other documents on record,” the HC said.
The signed witness statements taken by the police were not illegal and their credibility can be examined by the magistrate’s court later on, Justice Mohite-Dere said. Akhtar filed a complaint against Ranaut in November 2020 before the Andheri metropolitan magistrate, accusing her of making defamatory and baseless comments against him in a TV interview.
In December, the magistrate’s court directed the suburban Juhu police to conduct an inquiry. The police said in their report that an offense of defamation was made out against Ranaut on the face of it, and further probe was required. The magistrate then initiated criminal proceedings against Ranaut and issued a summons to her in February under CrPC section 202.
“The (magistrate’s) order issuing process dated 1st February 2021 reflects application of mind and hence, warrants no interference,” the high court said.