Lyricist Javed Akhtar on Monday urged the Bombay High Court to dismiss a plea filed by actor Kangana Ranaut seeking quashing of the criminal defamation proceedings initiated against her by a metropolitan magistrate’s court in the city, on a complaint filed by him. In a counter-affidavit filed in the HC, Akhtar said, through his lawyers NK Bharadwaj and associates, that the metropolitan magistrate’s court in suburban Andheri had followed a due process in launching the criminal defamation proceedings against Ranaut.
Akhtar’s counter-affidavit was filed in response to a plea filed by Ranaut through her counsel Rizwan Siddiquee last month in which she challenged the defamation proceedings initiated earlier this year, saying the magistrate’s court had failed to apply its mind to the case.
Ranaut had said the magistrate’s court did not independently examine the complainant or the witnesses named in the complaint against her. It had instead relied merely upon the Juhu police’s discretion and initiated the case against her.
The counter-affidavit stated the magistrate had been well within his powers to initiate the proceedings against the actor. Akhtar said the magistrate had gone through his complaint and his statement made on oath, detailing his grievances against Ranaut.
He further stated that while the Criminal Procedure Code provided for the magistrate to independently examine witnesses, it did not make the same mandatory.
“The MM (metropolitan magistrate) followed due process of law before proceeding to initiate the summoning order against the applicant (Ranaut). That it was only after considering the footage of the interview dated July 19, 2020, and detailed verification of the statement made by the respondent (Akhtar) and the statement of witnesses that the MM proceeded to issue process against the applicant (Ranaut),” reads Akhtar’s affidavit.
Akhtar filed a criminal complaint against Ranaut in November last year before the Andheri metropolitan magistrate alleging that she made defamatory and baseless comments against him in a television interview given to journalist Arnab Goswami.
In December 2020, the court directed the Juhu police to conduct an inquiry into Akhtar’s complaint against Ranaut. The police subsequently informed the court that an offence of defamation, as alleged by Akhtar against the actor, was prima facie made out, and further probe is required.
The court then initiated criminal proceedings against Ranaut and issued summons to her in February this year. As per section 202 of the CrPC, a magistrate, on receipt of a complaint of an offence of which he or she is authorised to take cognisance of, can inquire, or direct the police to see if an actual case is made out, before issuing summons to an accused person.
In his counter-affidavit, Akhtar also said that Ranaut never cooperated with the police’s probe. He stated the actor refused to respond to the summons in the case and that she continued to make defamatory statements against him on social media even after the proceedings were initiated in the case.
The high court is likely to hear Ranaut’s plea on August 18.
The Andheri metropolitan magistrate’s court on July 27 allowed as the “last chance” Ranaut’s plea seeking exemption from personal appearance in the defamation case filed by Akhtar and directed her to remain present on the next date of hearing on September 1 without fail.
Metropolitan magistrate, Andheri, RR Khan, had also rejected the plea of Akhtar, filed through his lawyer, seeking issuance of an arrest warrant against the actor but said the complainant can move the plea again if Ranaut fails to appear at the next hearing.