Interesting case here from Apex Court from 1966.
Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar, who is a citizen of India, serves as a Reporter on the Staff of the English Weekly “Blitz”, published in Bombay and edited by Mr. R. K. Karanjia. It appears that Mr. Krishnaraj M. D. Thackersey sued Mr. R. K. Karanjia (Suit No. 319 of 1960) on the Original Side of the Bombay High Court, and claimed Rs. 3 lakhs by way of damages for alleged malicious libel published in the Blitz on the 24th September, 1960, under the caption “Scandal Bigger Than Mundhra”. This suit was tried by Mr. Justice Tarkunde.
One of the allegations which had been made in the said article was to the effect that China Cotton Exporters, of which Mr. Thackersey was a partner, had obtained licences for import of art silk yarn on condition that the same would be sold to handloom weavers only; and that in order to sell the said silk yarn in the black market with a view to realise higher profits, three bogus handloom factories were created on paper and bills and invoices were made with a view to create the impression that the condition on which the, licences had been granted to China Cotton Exporters, had been complied with. Mr. Thackersey’s concern had thus sold the said yarn in the black-market and thereby concealed from taxation’ the large profits made in that behalf. These allegations purported to be based on the papers filed in Suits Nos. 997 and 998 of 1951 which had been instituted by China Cotton Exporters against National Handloom Weaving Works, Rayon Handloom Industries, and one Bhaichand G. Goda. The said Bhaichand G. Goda was alleged to have been the guarantor in respect of the transactions mentioned in the said suits. The said Bhaichand Goda had, in the course of insolvency proceedings which had been taken out in execution of the decrees passed against him, made an affidavit which seemed to support the main points of the allegations made by the Blitz in its article “Scandal Bigger Than Mundhra”.
During the course of the trial, the said Bhaichand Goda was called as a defence witness by Mr. Karanjia. In the witness-box, Mr. Goda feigned complete ignorance of the said transactions; and under protection given to him by the learned Judge who was trying the action, he repudiated every one of the allegations he had made against Mr. Thackersey’s concern in the said affidavit. Thereupon, Mr. Karanjia applied for permission to cross-examine Mr. Goda and the said permission was granted by the learned Judge. Accordingly, Mr. Goda came to be cross-examined by Mr. Karanjia’s counsel.
Later, during the course of further proceedings, it was discovered that Mr. Goda had made several statements before the Income-tax authorities in which he had reiterated some of the statements made by him in his affidavit on which he was crossexamined. From the said statements it also appeared that he had alleged that in addition to the invoice price of the transactions in question, he had paid Rs. 90,000/- as “on money” to China Cotton Exporters. As a result of the discovery of this material, an application was made by Mr. Karanjia before the learned Judge for permission to recall Mr. Goda and confront him with the statements which he had made before the Income-tax authorities. The learned Judge granted the said application.
On Friday, the 23rd October, 1964, Mr. Goda stepped into the witness-box in pursuance of the order passed by the learned Judge that he should be recalled for further examination. On that occasion he moved the learned Judge that the latter should protect him against his evidence being reported in the press. He stated that the publication in the press of his earlier evidence had caused loss to him in business; and so, he desired that the evidence which he had been recalled to give should not be published in the papers. When this request was made by Mr. Goda, arguments were addressed before the learned Judge and he orally directed that the evidence of Mr. Goda should not be published. It was pointed out to the learned Judge that the daily press, viz., ’The Times of India’ and ’The Indian Express’ gave only brief accounts of the proceedings before the Court in that case, whereas the ’Blitz’ gave a full report of the said proceedings. The learned Judge then told Mr. Zaveri, Counsel for Mr. Karanjia that the petitioner who was one of the reporters of the ’Blitz’ should be told not to publish reports of Mr. Goda’s evidence in the ’Blitz’. The petitioner had all along been reporting the proceedings in the said suit in the columns of the ’Blitz’.
On Monday, the 26th October, 1964, Mr. Chari appeared for Mr. Karanjia and urged before the learned Judge that the fundamental principle in the administration of justice was that it must be open to the public and that exceptions to such public administration of justice were rare, such as that of a case where a child is a victim of a sexual offence, or of a case relating to matrimonial matters where sordid details of intimate relations between spouses are likely to come out, and proceedings in regard to official secrecy. Mr. Chari further contended that no witness could claim protection from publicity on the ground that if the evidence is published it might adversely affect his business. Mr. Chari, therefore, challenged the correctness of the said order and alternatively suggested to the learned Judge that he should pass a written order forbidding publication of Mr. Goda’s evidence. The learned Judge, however, rejected Mr. Chari’s contentions and stated that he had already made an oral order forbidding such publication, and that no written order was necessary. He added that he expected that his oral order would be obeyed.
The petitioner felt aggrieved by the said oral order passed by Mr. Justice Tarkunde and moved the Bombay High Court by a Writ Petition No. 1685 of 1964 under Art. 226 of the Constitution. The said petition was, however, dismissed by a Division Bench of the said High Court on the 10th November, 1964 on the ground that the impugned order was a judicial order of the High Court and was not amenable to a writ under Art. 226. That is how the petitioner has moved this Court under Art. 32 for the enforcement of his fundamental rights under Art. 19(1)(a) and (g) of the Constitution.
In a suit for defamation against the editor of a weekly newspaper, field on the original side of the High Court, one of the witnesses prayed that the Court may order that publicity should not be given to his evidence in the press as his business would be affected. After hearing arguments, the trial Judge passed an oral order prohibiting the publication of the evidence of the witness. A reporter of the weekly along with other journalists moved this Court under Art. 32 challenging the validity of the order.
Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar And Ors Vs State of Maharashtra And Anr on 3 March, 1966
Other Source links:
The Index for Defamation Judgments is here.
Reproduced in accordance with Section 52(q) of the Copyright Act 1957 (India) from main.sci.gov.in/judgments, judis.nic.in, lobis.nic.in, indiacode.nic.in and other Indian High Court and District Court Websites such as ecourts.gov.in