Justice Michal Saldanha seeks apology from advocate, HC quashes case

Daijiworld Media Network – Bengaluru

Bengaluru, Jul 9: The Karnataka high court (HC) has quashed a criminal defamation case against Justice M F Saldanha, a former judge of the Bombay and Karnataka high courts.

Justice N S Sanjay Gowda dismissed the case after Justice Saldanha issued an unconditional apology and pledged not to pursue the matter further.

The case originated from a complaint by advocate MP Noronha from Mangaluru, leading to charges under Sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the IPC, along with Section 66 (computer-related offences) of the Information Technology Act.

The allegations stemmed from a press conference held by Justice Saldanha, addressing the alleged injustice faced by Baptist D'Souza, whose house was demolished by Jesuit priests from St Aloysius College, Mangaluru. The conference also highlighted alleged police inaction, which purportedly resulted in severe property damage and the molestation of D'Souza's two daughters.

Noronha's complaint claimed that the press conference significantly harmed his reputation. The initial private complaint was referred to the police, who, finding no substantial evidence, filed a closure report.

Noronha challenged this report, presenting a sworn statement and relevant documents to the court. The severity of the allegations led to a criminal case against Justice Saldanha and others. Justice Saldanha then petitioned the HC to quash the case.

Advocate Dilraj Rohit Sequeira, representing the retired judge, argued that the summons was issued improperly as the elements required to invoke the offences were absent and that there was no likelihood of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. He emphasized that there was no intent to defame Noronha; the press conference aimed to highlight police irregularities and alleged collusion with the Jesuit priests.

Justice Saldanha submitted an affidavit with an unconditional apology, stating he would not pursue the matter further. The HC, recognizing Justice Saldanha's advanced age and limited mobility, accepted his apology and quashed the proceedings against him.

The HC also quashed the criminal proceedings against a co-accused, PB D’sa, who had also submitted an apology. However, the case against two other accused continues, as they did not submit any apology.

"This petition is therefore allowed in part. The proceedings against accused Nos. 4 (PB D’sa) and 3 (Michael Saldanha) in C.C. No. 3902/2016 in P.C. No. 52/2024 on the file of the II Judicial Magistrate I Class, Mangalore, for the offences punishable under Sections 384, 385, 389, 500, 501, and 506 read with Section 34 of the IPC shall stand quashed. The proceedings against accused Nos. 5 and 6 shall, however, continue," the Court's July 3 order stated.

Advocate Dilraj Rohit Sequeira represented the petitioners, HC government pleader Rashmi Patel appeared for the state, and advocate Cyril Prasad Pais represented the private respondent.





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