The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday dismissed a charge sheet filed by Kolkata Police against Union Minister Babul Supriyo for allegedly trying to outrage the modesty of Mohua Moitra, a TMC MLA in 2017, holding no such offence was committed by the accused.
The court, however, noted that Mr Supriyo had indeed asked Ms Moitra, now a TMC Lok Sabha member, during a televised debate whether she was intoxicated, a comment it found "defamatory".
Justice Bibek Chaudhuri granted Ms Moitra liberty to take legal action Mr Supriyo, MoS for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, for alleged defamation.
Justice Chaudhuri held that the charge sheet does not disclose commission of any offence under Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC against the accused.
He said the allegations made in the FIR constitute a non-cognizable offence under Section 500 (defamation) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and no police officer can conduct an investigation in such matters without an order passed by a magistrate to that effect.
The judge, however, berated Mr Supriyo, noting, "By making such defamatory statement to a woman, the petitioner, prima facie, not only humiliated dignity and honour of a woman, but also violated his constitutional oath."
"It is expected from a representative of the people that he must be courteous in his behaviour, dignified in his manners and cautious on the words spoken by him," the judge observed while granting Ms Moitra the liberty to take action against the minister before an appropriate forum.
Mr Moitra, who was elected as a Lok Sabha MP in 2019, had filed an FIR against Mr Supriyo, alleging he had made comments that amounted to intending to outrage her modesty during a debate on a national television channel in 2017.
Justice Chaudhuri noted that both of them were elected public representatives at the relevant point of time and mouthpieces of the general masses of the country.
"It is the constitutional mandate under Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of state policy that dignity of woman must be protected and freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19(1) (a) is subject to reasonable restrictions and one of such restrictions is penal provision against defamation," he observed.