Supreme Court quashes criminal defamation case against Tejashwi Yadav [13.2.2024]

The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed a criminal defamation case against Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, who was summoned by an Ahmedabad court last year over his alleged offending remarks against Gujaratis.

Yadav petitioned the Supreme Court to have the case moved to a court outside Gujarat, preferably in Delhi or Patna. A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan decided it was better to end the proceedings since Yadav unconditionally withdrew his remarks.

The relief came weeks after the RJD lost power when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar switched allies. Kumar won a trust vote in the Bihar Assembly on Monday.

On February 5, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict in the matter while noting Yadav’s fresh apology. Yadav on January 19 filed an affidavit in the top court, seeking to withdraw his alleged remark that “only Gujaratis can be thugs”. On January 29, the Apex court asked Yadav to file a more appropriate statement to withdraw his alleged remark unconditionally. Yadav accordingly complied.

The bench, while hearing Yadav’s plea, earlier stayed the proceedings on the criminal defamation complaint and issued a notice to Gujarat resident Haresh Mehta who filed it.

The complaint against Yadav was filed under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for alleged criminal defamation. Criminal defamation entails a maximum punishment of two years in prison.

The Gujarat court in August 2023 conducted a preliminary inquiry against Yadav under Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and found sufficient grounds to summon him on Mehta’s complaint.

According to the complaint, Yadav, while talking to the media in Patna in March 2023, said, “Only Gujaratis can be thugs in the present situation, and their fraud will be forgiven.” The then Bihar deputy chief minister allegedly asked: “Who will be responsible if they run away with the money belonging to the LIC or banks?”

Mehta also claimed that Yadav’s comments defamed all Gujaratis. A “thug” is a rogue, sly, and criminal person, and such a comparison with the entire community will cause people to look at Gujaratis with suspicion, Mehta said, while seeking maximum punishment for Yadav.

14 Feb 2024