Debate show broadcast on widely-viewed network, consequence ensued at different places, says SC

Debate-show hosted by TV anchor Amish Devgan was broadcast on a ‘widely viewed television network’ and the consequences of his alleged defamatory words ensued at different places, the Supreme Court said on Monday while rejecting the plea that the FIRs were lodged at places where no ’cause of action’ arose.
As many as seven FIRs were lodged against the journalist in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh for his alleged defamatory remarks on Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti during a show on June 15.
It was argued that criminal proceedings arising from the FIRs ought to be quashed as they were registered in places where no ’cause of action’ arose.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna dealt with the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) provisions and rejected the contention saying ‘an offence is triable at the place where an act is done or its consequence ensues’.
‘The debate-show hosted by the petitioner was broadcast on a widely viewed television network. The audience, including the complainants, were located in different parts of India and were affected by the utterances of the petitioner; thus, the consequence of the words of the petitioner ensued in different places, including the places of registration of the impugned FIRs,’ the judgement said.
The top court also rejected the plea that remarks caused ‘slight harm’ and the case be allowed to rest.
‘We are not inclined at this stage to entertain this defence of the Petitioner. Section 95 (of IPC) is intended to prevent penalisation of negligible wrongs or offences of trivial character. Whether an act, which amounts to an offence, is trivial would undoubtedly depend upon the evidence collated in relation to the injury or harm suffered, the knowledge or intention with which the offending act was done, and other related circumstances,’ it held.
These aspects would be examined and considered at the appropriate stage by the police during investigation, after investigation by the competent authority while granting or rejecting sanction or by the Court, if a charge-sheet is filed, it said.
The top court refused to quash the FIRs against Devgan but ordered the transfer of all FIRs to Ajmer in Rajasthan besides granting him protection from arrest till conclusion of probe if he continues’to cooperate in the investigation.