Rajdeep Sardesai – an accused in a Defamation case

An overwhelming majority of journalists love giving sermons on morality. They preach transparency in public life. They hound politicians & public figures on any & every trivial issue. And all that while they pretend to be sitting on the high horses of morality. But when it comes to practising what they preach, their hypocrisy and sheer brazenness of it is unparalleled.

A few days ago I stumbled upon some interesting facts about Rajdeep Sardesai. I was routinely reading a law journal that reports judgments of Supreme Court & High Courts. What I read left me in disbelief. It was a judgment of Supreme Court related to Rajdeep Sardesai. The interesting facts emerging out of the said judgment are summarised as under –

Rajdeep Sardesai has never publicly revealed the fact that he is an accused before court of law. Mr. Rajiv Trivedi, a high ranking IPS Officer has filed a criminal case for defamation against Rajdeep Sardesai & several others in Hyderabad.

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The criminal case pertains to an alleged defamatory news run by Rajdeep Sardesai led CNN-IBN in the year 2007 with regard to encounter of Sohrabuddin Shaikh. In 2007 Rajdeep Sardesai led CNN-IBN ran a story accusing IPS Rajiv Trivedi of playing a role in the events leading to Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter. In the said criminal case Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad passed an order summoning Rajdeep Sardesai & others to face the prosecution as accused.

Rajdeep Sardesai challenged the said summoning order by filing a petition in AP High Court. Vide said petition Rajdeep prayed that the summoning order of the lower court be set aside & the criminal case against him be quashed. However AP High Court found prima facie merit in the criminal case & accordingly dismissed Rajdeep’s challenge. Thus the High Court put it’s seal of approval on the summoning order against Rajdeep which requires him to face prosecution as accused.

Rajdeep carried the challenge further before the Supreme Court & sought to quash the criminal proceedings against him. By an elaborate judgment dated 14th May 2015 the Supreme Court also dismissed Rajdeep’s petition. Thus order summoning Rajdeep to face prosecution as accused became final after receiving approval from the Apex Court of land.

It was argued by Rajdeep’s counsel in Supreme Court that criminal proceedings will hamper the “freedom of press”. Supreme Court rejected the said argument by observing that individual reputation is equally important & cannot be trampled in the name of freedom of press.

However in a last ditch attempt Rajdeep Sardesai has filed a fresh petition in SC contending that provision making defamation a criminal act be done away with. Therein the SC has stayed the proceeding in the court of Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad. His petition has been tagged with the petitons of Dr. Swamy, Kejriwal & others seeking decriminalisation of defamation. But it must be remembered that the order summoning Rajdeep as an accused has become final on merits. His latest petition is based only on the larger & generalised argument that defamation be decriminalised. That argument is akin to allegedly committing an act which is a crime under existing laws & then seeking decriminalisation of the act.

The lack of MSM coverage in this case sheds light on media hypocrisy. In the case of others, media does not even wait for any judicial order or legal action. A mere allegation is enough to hound politicians & public figures. Chants for resignation grow loud. But when one of their own is found in such situation media goes mute.

Why didn’t media apply same yardstick to Rajdeep Sardesai? Why wasn’t Rajdeep chased by cameras? Why weren’t tough questions asked to Rajdeep? Will anyone even flirt with the idea of Rajdeep’s resignation? What does India Today group have to say on this? Were they in the know of things? If yes, why did they keep mum? If no, what is their reaction now?

These are tough questions no one is willing to ask Rajdeep. And now that they have been asked here, Rajdeep will not reply.

– @BhateKetan

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