Pursuant to the deliberate, derogatory and malicious claims made by Mr. Saket Gokhale in a press release dated 4th December 2022, against the Government of Meghalaya, the Meghalayan Age Limited and State government officials; the Meghalayan Age Limited has filed a criminal defamation suit against the said individual.
The Meghalayan Age Limited is a State Govt. company under the aegis of the Planning Department and has been incorporated under Section 2 (45) of the Companies Act, 2013. It has been set up specifically for the implementation of Externally Aided Projects, promotion of tourism, organizing tourism-related festivals/events and preservation of heritage in the State of Meghalaya.
The Meghalayan Age Limited has filed the complaint and sought remedies in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, East Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya under Section 200 read with section 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, seeking prosecution of the accused Mr. Saket Gokhale for the offence of criminal defamation under section 499, punishable under section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for making false and defamatory statements in the print/electronic media. Further, as per the petition, the statements made by the accused also constitute an offence under Section 505 of the IPC which deals with the offence of public mischief.
The complaint highlighted that Mr. Gokhale is a habitual offender with little regard for the process of law and has a history of making false and baseless allegations against public personalities and government officials. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in 2021 had made strong observations against him for making similar defamatory allegations against civil servants. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court had also said that Mr. Gokhale should have carried out preliminary due diligence before making any such statements and that he should have sought clarifications from the person against whom the allegations were made. The complaint further highlighted that the accused was also recently arrested by the Gujarat Police for disseminating fake news in connection with a tragic incident in the State of Gujarat. The complaint also pointed out that a basic attempt to seek clarification from the Meghalayan Age Limited as mandated by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court would have shown that the allegations are baseless without any merit.
The complaint further highlighted the fact that the false and defamatory allegations against the Meghalayan Age Limited can adversely affect the future prospects of mobilizing projects and Externally Aided Projects from bilateral and multilateral organizations. This would seriously affect the developmental strategy of the State which is to raise additional investments through Externally Aided Projects for the creation of jobs and the promotion of economic opportunities in the State. It must be noted that under any Externally Aided Project being implemented in the northeastern states, the Government of India passes 90% of the funding as grants to the State government.
The Government of Meghalaya is also considering filing a civil defamation suit against the said individual and other entities for making completely false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous allegations and spreading them through print/electronic/social media, which have caused irreparable loss and damage to the reputation of the Government of Meghalaya and its entities/officials.