The Bombay High Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict in a plea by actor Kangana Ranaut challenging the criminal defamation proceedings initiated by a Magistrate Court earlier this year on a complaint filed by lyricist Javed Akhtar in 2020.
A single-judge bench of Revati Mohite-Dere was hearing Ranaut’s appeal that had sought that the complaint by Akhtar be quashed and set aside.
In his complaint filed last year, Akhtar has alleged that Ranaut made defamatory statements on national and international television, “in what appears to be a clear campaign to malign and tarnish (Akhtar) in the eyes of the general public”.
After the Magistrate Court in Andheri began proceedings against Ranaut in February and issued a bailable warrant in March, the actor appeared before the magistrate and applied for bail, which was granted by the court.
Ranaut’s plea in the HC, filed in July this year, challenged the entire proceeding initiated by the magistrate, including all orders and summons issued till date. It said that the magistrate, instead of simply directing the Juhu police to conduct an inquiry, was duty bound to examine Akhtar and the witnesses named in the complaint as per Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Advocate Rizwan Siddiquee for Ranaut argued, “The magistrate has to be master of investigation himself and record reasons, and cannot just pass orders mechanically. No material evidence was brought on record by the complainant (Akhtar) and material was brought by a third party and the same was not examined on oath. However, the magistrate relied on it. He was duty bound to determine veracity of the complaint.”
Siddiquee added that it was a “one-sided investigation” as the magistrate had exercised powers under CrPC “without application of mind.” He added that the magistrate unnecessarily asked the police to conduct an inquiry for himself by delegating powers to them, and that it was in contravention of the law.
However, advocate Jay Bharadwaj for Akhtar opposed the plea and said that due procedure was followed by the magistrate, adding that in order to conduct impartial inquiry, all people involved were summoned by him; however, Ranaut did not attend the court.
Akhtar’s affidavit, in reply, sought dismissal of the plea and said that the same was filed with the “sole intent to delay the proceedings.”
Thereafter, the Court concluded the hearing and reserved the appeal for order, which is likely to be pronounced on September 9.
Meanwhile, the HC was also informed that the Andheri Magistrate had adjourned hearing to September 14 and granted Ranaut one last chance to appear before it to honour summons sent to her in defamation proceedings initiated by Akhtar.