The court was remitting a case challenging the order of a sessions court, which directed two persons in the case to pay a fine of Rs 9,000 each instead of two months imprisonment as ordered by a Judicial Magistrate, back to the sessions court.

Justice M Sathyanarayan said "the freedom of speech and expression includes publication and making representation to the authorities. However, malicious and defamatory statements in the name of freedom of expression could not be justified."

M Ayilsamy and A Gnanaselvam were asked to pay Rs 1000 as fine and undergo imprisonment for two months for circulating a letter that the revision petitioner P Arulappan, a retired professor, had been ex-communicated from the Parkava Kulam caste because his father-in-law was involved in litigations against the community people bringing disrepute to the community. The Valliyoor Judicial Magistrate issued the order on a complaint given by Arulappan.

The Magistrate found them  guilty of having committed offence under IPC section 500 (punishment for defamation) and sentenced them to undergo two months simple imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1,000 to be paid as compensation to the petitioner, following which they filed an appeal before Tirunelveli Additional Sessions Court.

The Sessions Court found that the community people convened a meeting and thereafter took a decision to ex-communicate Arulappan and the letter was issued on the wish of the community people. There was an effort for mediation to settle the issue amicably but the petitioner did not agree.

Then the court asked the two to pay the fine instead of undergoing two months imprisonment and felt it would meet the ends of justice. Accordingly, it modified the sentence awarded by the magistrate court by directing them to pay an additional fine of Rs 9,000 each.

Aggrieved by this, the petitioner approached the High Court contending that he had been ex-communicated from the community and he faced a social boycott and the lower court ought to have dealt with the matter on merits.

The counsel for the two persons submitted that they had no individual grievance against Arulappan and it was an unanimous decision of the community to ex-communicate him and in any
event, since it was circulated only among the community, it cannot be said that the petitioner was defamed.

Stating that grounds raised in the High Court were the same as the grounds of appeal before the lower court, the judge said he was of the view that the matter has to be remanded again to the lower appellate court for fresh adjudication on merits and directed that the matter be disposed on or before April 27.

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