Delhi Court Sentences Medha Patkar to Five Months in Jail Over Decades-Old Defamation Case

In a significant legal development, a Delhi court sentenced renowned social activist Medha Patkar to five months of simple imprisonment in a defamation case that dates back nearly a quarter-century. The case was initiated by VK Saxena, who is now the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, resulting in a protracted legal battle that culminated in this judgment.

The case originated in 2000 when Patkar, known for her leadership in the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), was accused of making derogatory remarks against Saxena, then the head of the Ahmedabad-based NGO, National Council for Civil Liberties. Saxena filed two defamation cases in response to Patkar’s comments on a television channel and other public statements deemed defamatory.

Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma, who convicted Patkar in May, underscored in his ruling that Patkar’s remarks were not only defamatory but seemed designed to foster negative perceptions of Saxena. The court also ordered Patkar to pay Rs 10 lakh in damages to Saxena.

Despite the conviction, the court considered several factors, including Patkar’s age and health, in deciding the nature of the punishment. The court opted for a lighter sentence of simple imprisonment rather than rigorous imprisonment, acknowledging these mitigating circumstances.

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After the sentencing, Patkar maintained her stance on the truthfulness of her actions, stating, “The truth can never be defeated…We have not tried to defame anyone, we only do our work.” She also filed a bail plea immediately following the judgment. The jail term is suspended for 30 days pending the outcome of the bail hearing, providing Patkar with a brief respite to prepare for the next steps in her legal journey.

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