The Madras High Court held that an advocate acting professionally as per instructions of client cannot be prosecuted for offence of defamation.
The case pertains to an application filed before NCLT seeking to remove chartered accountant V Venkata Siva Kumar as the resolution professional (RP) by an advocate on behalf of a committee of creditors.
The chartered accountant subsequently filed a criminal defamation complaint against the committee of creditors and the lawyer. He alleged that the statements made by them were defamatory.
The petition in the high court by the advocate and the committee of creditors sought to quash the defamation complaint.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice GK Ilanthiraiyan quashed a criminal defamation complaint made against advocate ML Ganesh and his client for statements made before National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in an insolvency proceeding case.
The court relied on several judgements made by the Supreme Court and high courts. The court observed that it has been repeatedly held that an advocate who acted professionally as per the instruction of his or her client cannot be made criminally liable for the offence of defamation under Section 500 of IPC unless the contrary is alleged and established.
The court further observed that a lawyer is an advocate, one who speaks for another. Naturally beyond what his client tells him the lawyer has no opportunity to test the truth or falsity of the story put forward by the client.
The court further said that no lawyer could ever be prosecuted for defamation in regard to any instructions which he might have given to his lawyer, because it is the lawyer’s business to decide whether he could properly act upon the instructions, and whatever responsibility might ensue from acting upon those instructions would be his and no one else’s, is opposed to the entire trend of decisions defining the scope and extent of the privilege conferred upon the lawyer.
“Whatever responsibility might ensue from acting upon those instruction would be his, and no one else’s, is opposed to the entire trend of decisions defining the scope and extent of the privilege conferred upon the Lawyer,” the court said.