CPC Case Brief – Crop Care Federation of India v. Rajasthan Patrika (O1R8)

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This order will dispose of an application under Order 7, Rule 11(Rejection of plaint in cases of non-disclosure of cause of action, undervalued relief claim, plaint is insufficiently stamped or suit appears from statement in plaint barred by law) of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) filed by the defendants, for rejection of the suit as not disclosing any cause of action, and also barred in law.

FACTS – Plaintiff is a company, members and shareholders are insecticides manufacturers. Plaintiff aggrieved by series of articles published by defendants Rajasthan Patrika. Plaintiffs claim that the articles published by defendants lower its reputation and those of its members and claim damages. The plaintiff says articles contain falsehoods about levels of pesticides used and its alleged harmful effects, and these articles defame all pesticide and insecticide manufacturers i.e. plaintiff’s members.

In their application under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC, the defendants contend that the principal for a suit for defamation is that the plaintiff should be an individual or a determinate body. The defendants argue since plaintiff is an association of firms, cannot be termed as a determinate body.

ISSUES –

Jurisdiction of the court – The decision in Indian Potash Ltd. V. Media Contents and Communication Services, makes it clear that in case of publication of defamatory articles in books or newspapers etc. the plaintiff can sue at any of the places where the newspaper is available. The court possesses jurisdiction to entertain the present suit.

Whether defendants are correct in alleging that there is no defamation or libel – For a civil remedy to lie against defamation, following ingredients need to be fulfilled:- 1. The statements must be false and defamatory, 2. They must refer to the plaintiff, 3. The statements must be published by the defendant.

In this case, both parties agree that there is no direct reference to the plaintiff or its members. Therefore, the second condition not fulfilled. The defendants say that there is no specific reference to anyone or few pesticide manufacturers, it is to point out harmful effects of overuse of pesticides. A suit for defamation cannot be maintainable if the alleged defamatory statements do not refer to a determinate or definite class or group of persons.

Order 7 Rule 11 requires a cause of action to be disclosed. In the plaint, there should be allegations which disclose the cause of action. For the action of defamation to be maintainable, the plaint must contain allegations which satisfy essentials for an action of defamation and complete the disclosure of cause of action. The court decided that upon reading the plaint as a whole, it could not be said to have disclosed a cause of action. The plaint is therefore liable to be rejected under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC.

Whether the plaintiff can sue in a representative capacity on behalf of its members – Plaintiff’s objects are to act on behalf of the body of manufacturers and promote their interest. It is not a subsidiary of any of its members, it has a separate corporate personality. The plaintiff says that the alleged libel is something that hurts its members and therefore can act on their behalf. The court says that the plaintiff is a distinct company, separate from its members and in this case the plaintiff cannot sue on their behalf.

JUDGEMENT

In view of the above discussion, it is held that the defendants have been able to establish that the suit does not disclose any triable cause of action and that the plaintiff, in any event, cannot maintain and file it. Rejected as not disclosing any cause of action

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