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Medha Patkar gets 5 months in prison in defamation case | Latest News Delhi

Medha Patkar gets 5 months in prison in defamation case | Latest News Delhi

A Delhi court on Monday sentenced social activist Medha Patkar to five months in prison in connection with a criminal defamation case filed against her in 2001 by VK Saxena, currently the lieutenant governor of Delhi.

Social activist Medha Patkar. (HT Archive)

The court also fined Patkar 10 lakh as compensation to Saxena, but suspended the sentence for 30 days to enable her to challenge the judgment.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on August 1.

Exiting the court, Patkar said, “The truth cannot be defeated… We have no intention of defaming anyone… We will challenge the order”.

The case stems from a press release issued by Patkar on November 25, 2000, in which she alleged that Saxena, the then president of not-for-profit National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), gave a cheque to Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) that later bounced.

At that time, NCCL was actively involved in ensuring the completion of the Sardar Sarovar — a project that NBA was bitterly opposed to — and on January 18, 2001, Saxena filed a defamation case against Patkar, alleging that the press release contained false accusations intended to harm his reputation.

During the hearings, Saxena testified that the press release was issued with an ulterior motive to defame him. His claims were supported by two witnesses who testified that their high regard for Saxena was diminished after reading the press release.

In its order convicting Patkar, the trial court in May found that Patkar had failed to provide evidence countering Saxena’s claims, and concluded that her actions were “deliberate”, “malicious”, and aimed at tarnishing Saxena’s reputation.

Determining the quantum of punishment on Monday, judicial magistrate first class Raghav Sharma noted Patkar’s advanced age and medical ailments, and stated that an imprisonment of one or two years could be “disproportionately harsh”, and while a term of one or two months would leave the complainant without justice.

“Therefore, a sentence of five months simple imprisonment is appropriate, ensuring that the punishment is significant yet not excessively severe given her circumstances”, the judge said.

The court also turned down Patkar’s plea to release her on probation.

“Releasing the convict on probation in this case, where the complainant had to fight a legal battle for 25 years, would make his efforts futile as he would be denied of his right to be repatriated for his harassment. Allowing probation in this case would be contrary to the principles of justice,” the court said.

Slapping her with a fine of 10 lakh, the court said the amount will “serve as a compensatory measure for the complainant”.

HT contacted LG’s office for a comment but did not receive any response.

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