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Medha Patkar Convicted in a Defamation Case against VK Saxena

Medha Patkar Convicted in a Defamation Case against VK Saxena

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 24: A Delhi court on Friday convicted the social activist and the Narmada Bachao Andolan founder leader Medha Patkar in a 2006 criminal defamation case filed by the Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena.

Under the relevant law, Ms Patkar can be sentenced to two years jail term, or fine or both as the punishment. The Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate Raghav Sharma found Ms Patkar guilty of criminal defamation.

Ms Patkar and Mr Saxena have been locked in a legal battle since 2000 after she filed a suit against him for publishing advertisements against her and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Mr Saxena had also filed two cases against her for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement.

The case decided on Friday was filed in 2006. Magistrate Sharma said reputation was one of the most valuable assets a person can possess, as it affects both personal and professional relationships and can also significantly impact an individual’s standing in society.

Ms Patkar and Mr Saxena’s legal battle dates back to 2000, when the lieutenant governor was the chief of the Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil Liberties. The activist had filed a case against him for publishing advertisements against her and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan had claimed that the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, which was inaugurated in 2017, could affect 40,000 families. It had organised massive protests, stating that the families could have to leave their homes, which could be submerged. The project had been embroiled in controversies since its foundation stone was laid in 1961 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In July, 2022, the Madhya Pradesh police had filed a case against Ms Patkar and 11 others for allegedly misusing around ₹ 13 crores collected in the name of education of tribal children. The complainant also alleged that the money collected by the Narmada Navnirman Abhiyan trust was being used in funding anti-national activities. The activist had refuted the allegations and said the complainant was a member of the student wing of the ruling BJP’s ideological mentor the RSS.

The First Information Report was filed under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code in the Barwani district. Ms Patkar is the trustee of the Narmada Navnirman Abhiyan trust. The FIR was filed on the complaint lodged by one Pritam Raj Badole who claimed that Ms Patkar misled people by impersonating herself as a social worker who works to provide primary-level education to the tribal children of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, while also providing residential living schools for educational purposes.

Ms Patkar asserted that the complainant has connections with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) which is the student wing of BJP’s ideological mentor of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). She said, “We have the audit report available for every question regarding the financial status. We, in fact, won the case against the Delhi Lieutenant Governor as we do not accept foreign money and always audit our bank accounts. Even in the future, we will keep answering and putting forth the evidence. The complainant is a member of ABVP and is connected with RSS.”

“We have used the money to help people generate livelihood and will keep doing it. We have been charged with such allegations in the past as well. We do not accept CSR funds, however, it was only once when we accepted it from a Nandurbar collector and we have already registered the audit for the same,” she had said.




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