The Bombay High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a plea filed by actor Kangana Ranaut seeking quashing of criminal defamation proceedings initiated against her by a metropolitan magistrate’s court in the city on a complaint filed by Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar. Ranaut, through her counsel Rizwan Siddiquee, had challenged the defamation proceedings initiated earlier this year, saying the magistrate’s court in suburban Andheri had failed to apply its mind to the case.
Ranaut said in her plea the lower court did not independently examine the complainant or witnesses named in the complaint against her, but it instead relied merely upon the discretion of the Juhu police and initiated the case against her.
On Wednesday, Siddiquee told a single bench presided over by Justice Revati Mohite-Dere that the police inquiry into Akhtar”s complaint was “one-sided.”
“My witnesses were never examined. The magistrate should have ensured that no party is harassed,” Siddiquee told the HC.
Akhtar”s counsel Jay Bharadwaj, however, told the bench that the magistrate had ordered the police inquiry after going through Akhtar”s complaint and excerpts of the interview in which Ranaut had made the alleged defamatory comments.
He further said the police had summoned witnesses and concerned persons, including Ranaut, to ensure its inquiry was impartial, but the actor never responded to the summons.
Akhtar filed a criminal complaint against Ranaut in November last year before the Andheri metropolitan magistrate for allegedly making defamatory and baseless comments against him in a television interview given to journalist Arnab Goswami.
In December 2020, the court directed the Juhu police to conduct an inquiry into Akhtar”s complaint. The police subsequently informed the court that an offence of defamation, as alleged by Akhtar against the actor, was prima facie made out, and further probe into the same was required.
The court accordingly, initiated criminal proceedings against Ranaut and issued summons to her in February this year.
As per section 202 of the CrPC, a magistrate, on receipt of a complaint of an offence of which he or she is authorised to take cognisance of, can inquire, or direct the police to see if an actual case is made out, before issuing summons to an accused person.
The high court is likely to pass an order on Ranaut”s plea on September 9.