Rustom K Karanjia v KMD Thackersey Case deals with the meaning of ‘qualified privilege’ which can be used as a protection against the allegation of defamation.
Facts of Rustom K Karanjia v KMD Thackersey Case:
Thackersey (plaintiff-respondent), a business owner with enormous wealth, was the chairperson of the Indian Cotton Mills Federation and Textile Control Board.
RK Karanjia (defendant-appellant), a journalist in BLITZ newspaper published an article alleging ‘House of Thackersey’ of making enormous profits which were concealed by financial jugglery, which enabled the House to evade income tax which with a penalty, was computed at Rs. 4 crores.
Thackersey sued Karanjia for the compensation of Rs 3 lakhs for defamation. Trial Court decided in favor of the plaintiff.
Contentions and Issues:
Whether the defendant editor was entitled to the protection under ‘qualified privilege’?
Whether the defendant was actuated to publish that article with express malice towards the plaintiff?
Whether the quantum of damages was appropriate or exemplary?
Ratio and Decision:
1. Justice Palekar: There was no express duty to communicate with the defendant about the issue as the journalist, like any other citizen, may comment fairly and if necessary severely on a matter of public interest, provided the allegations of facts made are truthful.
Since law recognizes his right to comment on matters of public interest, the journalist obviously owes an obligation to the public to have his facts right and he shall be ready to prove the same at any point in time. But in this case, the defendant has failed to prove the same and therefore, the plea of ‘qualified privilege cannot be allowed.
2. Previously, in May 1947, the plaintiff made the defendant apologize public on a similar allegation where he published that the plaintiff’s cotton bales have been seized in the black-market raid, but in reality; the plaintiff was not responsible for the destination of the cotton bales. He carried the worst impression of the plaintiff. Therefore, the reason for writing this article was not mere public interest, and it was actuated with malice.
3. The exemplary damages can’t be awarded in this case. Appeal partially allowed, where the decree of the Trial Court is confirmed with the only modification that for Rs 3 lakhs to 1.5 lakhs will be substituted.
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