Sushil Modi’s plea against defamation suit rejected


New Delhi : The Delhi High Court has rejected Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi’s plea to quash a criminal defamation case filed in 2004 by economist Mohan Guruswami for terming him “corrupt”.

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Justice A.K. Sikri Friday dismissed the plea and said, “The learned Metropolitan Magistrate shall now proceed with the case against Modi.”

Guruswami, a former advisor to the finance minister during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime, filed a criminal complaint in 2004 against Modi, then leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly, for allegedly making defamatory remarks against him at a press conference.

He complained that Modi had defamed him by calling him “corrupt” and asserting that he had been removed from the government on serious charges of corruption.

Guruswamy said Modi made “all kinds of vile and untruthful allegations against me” without any substance.

The Metropolitan Magistrate dismissed Modi’s application, seeking dismissal of Guruswami’s complaint, and the Additional Session Judge later upheld his order.

Modi contended that he was public servant and could not be prosecuted without getting sanction from the authority.

The high court, while concurring with the orders of the lower court, said legislators were not public servants for criminal prosecution under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as they were not in the pay of the state government, because legislature of a state cannot be comprehended in the expression ‘state government’.

“Ministers in the government, including chief minister, who are also MLAs, are treated as public servants. However, that is not because of the reason that they are in receipt of any salary but because they discharge duties prescribed by the State Government Rules and they are treated to be in the service of the government. This principle cannot be extended to the leader of opposition,” Justice Sikri said.

“Leader of opposition was not remunerated by the Executive Government. He was not getting pay and allowance for any public duty which was directed by the government or for the government,” the court said while refusing to give Modi any protection provided for public servants.

The court also clarified that the definition of “public servant” in the IPC was different from that under the Prevention of Corruption Act and MLAs were not public servants for offences committed under the IPC.