In an epic decision, the Supreme Court has upheld defamation as a criminal offence under Indian Penal Code. The apex court has rubbished plea by several leaders including BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal among others.
The top court also said that even freedom of speech should have reasonable restrictions and it has directed magistrates across the country to observe extreme caution while issuing summons in private defamation complaints.
While deciding on the petitions, the apex court also ruled that the petitioners can move the High Courts against summons issued in defamation cases, that too within eight weeks. The petitioners will have interim protection and criminal proceedings will remain stayed before the trial court.
The petitioners had argued the Indian Penal Code Sections 499 and 500, which prescribe a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment for defamation.
The verdict was delivered by the two-judge bench of justice Dipak Misra and justice Prafulla C Pant.