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Delhi Court sentences Medha Patkar to 5 months imprisonment in a 2001 defamation case, cites her age and health issues for not imposing ‘excessive punishment’

The defamation suit was filed in response to Medha Patkar’s statements in April 2006. In a panel discussion on a news channel, Patkar alleged that VK Saxena received civil contracts from Gujarat-based Sardar Sarovar Nigam, which manages the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The allegation was denied by Saxena.

On Monday (1st July), a Delhi court sentenced controversial ‘activist’ Medha Patkar to 5 months of simple imprisonment in the criminal defamation case. The defamation suit was filed against her by Vinai Kumar Saxena in 2001 and Patkar was convicted in May 2024. Notably, VK Saxena is presently serving as the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. The court cited her health condition and age as the reason for giving lenient sentencing in the case. 

The Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma of the Saket Court said that excessive punishment is not being imposed on Patkar looking at her age and medical ailments. Additionally, the judge said that the sentencing would remain suspended for 30 days.

The court further imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh and asked Patkar to pay it as compensation to Saxena for the damage caused to him. 

She was earlier convicted by the court on 24th May for the offence of criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. Saxena had filed the defamation case against the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement against him.

Medha Patkar and Vinai Kumar Saxena have been involved in a legal battle since 2000 after Patkar filed a case against him for publishing ads against her and Narmada Bachao Andolan. At that time, Saxena was the chief of the Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil Liberties. At the same time, Saxena filed two defamation lawsuits against her over her comments against him.

The defamation suit was filed in response to Medha Patkar’s statements in April 2006. In a panel discussion on a news channel, Patkar alleged that Saxena received civil contracts from Gujarat-based Sardar Sarovar Nigam, which manages the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The allegation was denied by Saxena.

In 2000, Saxena published an advertisement against Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan which was opposing the construction of dams over the Narmada River. Afterward, Patkar issued a press notice against Saxena which prompted Saxena to file a defamation suit against Patkar before a court in Ahmedabad in 2001. In 2003, the case was transferred to Delhi following the Supreme Court’s order.

While convicting her, Judge Sharma ruled that Patkar imputed that Saxena was “mortgaging the people of Gujarat and their resources before Bill Gates and Wolfensohn and he was an agent of the Government of Gujarat”. 

The court order stated, “It is evident that the accused harboured a clear intention to defame the complainant through her press note, given the deliberate and calculated nature of her statements.”  

The Court added that by explicitly stating that Saxena was “pained with hawala transactions”, Patkar aimed to associate him with illegal and unethical financial dealings, which inflicted significant harm to his reputation and standing. 

The court noted that this assertion, without providing any substantive evidence, was a clear attempt to malign his financial integrity and create a public perception of wrongdoing. 

Judge Sharma further stated that the terms used by Patkar against Saxena were not only inflammatory but were also intended to provoke public outrage and diminish his esteem in the eyes of the community.

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