AAP, its leaders made “defamatory” statements against Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena in reckless manner, HC directs taking down posts : The Tribune India

AAP, its leaders made “defamatory” statements against Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena in reckless manner, HC directs taking down posts

AAP leaders had alleged that Saxena had received and channelised demonetised currency in November 2016 while acting as chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission

AAP, its leaders made “defamatory” statements against Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena in reckless manner, HC directs taking down posts

Vinai Kumar Saxena. File photo



PTI

New Delhi, September 27

In an interim order, the Delhi High Court Tuesday restrained the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and several of its leaders from making “defamatory” statements against Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena and directed them to take down the alleged libelous posts, videos, and tweets against him on social media, saying they have been made in a reckless manner.

The high court said on a prima facie view, the various statements or interviews or press conferences or tweets or re-tweets or hashtags made by the AAP and its leaders are per se defamatory and they have been made in a reckless manner, without any factual verification, in order to tarnish the reputation of Saxena.

The court’s interim order came on a suit filed by Saxena seeking to injunct AAP, its leaders Atishi Singh, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Durgesh Pathak, Sanjay Singh, and Jasmine Shah, who was appointed by the Government of NCT of Delhi as Vice Chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission, from making false allegations against him and direct them to delete or take down the alleged false and libelous posts or tweets or videos circulated and issued on social media against him and his family.

He has also sought damages and compensation of Rs 2.5 crore along with interest from the political party and its five leaders.

The AAP leaders had alleged that Saxena had received and channelised demonetised currency in November 2016 while acting as chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). The party had alleged that Saxena was involved in a Rs 1,400 crore scam.

In its order, the high court said Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution affords the right of freedom of speech and expression to all persons, however, the same is subject to restrictions under Article 19(2), which includes defamation.

“Therefore, the right to freedom of speech and expression is not an unfettered right in the garb of which defamatory statements can be made to tarnish the reputation of a person. The fundamental right to freedom of speech has to be counterbalanced with the right of the reputation of an individual, which has been held to be a basic element of the right to a life consecrated in Article 21 of the Constitution,” Justice Amit Bansal said. The high court also issued notice to AAP and its leaders, Twitter, and YouTube on the suit and asked them to respond to it while fixing the matter for hearing on February 6, 2023.

The high court said in case AAP and its leaders fail to comply with the direction of taking down the offending material within 48 hours, Twitter and YouTube are directed to take down the respective hashtags and also the tweets, re-tweets, and videos published on their social media platforms.

It said the statements made by AAP and its leaders that Saxena was allegedly involved in acts of corruption at the time of demonetisation, are “completely unsubstantiated”.

“In the present case, the plaintiff (Saxena), being a Constitutional Authority, cannot meet the personal attacks being made by the defendants (AAP and its leaders) against him by taking resort to social media platforms. The defendants have not even bothered to respond to the legal notice dated September 5, 2022, sent on behalf of the plaintiff. Therefore, the only remedy available for the plaintiff to protect his reputation and prevent erosion of the same would be to approach the court of law and seek injunctive relief,” the high court said.

It said the damage caused to the reputation of an individual is immediate and far-reaching on the internet and so long as the impugned content continues to be in circulation and visible on social media, it is likely to cause continuing damage to the reputation and image of the plaintiff.

“Grave and irreparable harm and injury would be caused to the reputation of the plaintiff if the aforesaid defamatory content continues to exist on the internet and the social media platforms of the defendants no.7 and 8 (Twitter and YouTube) and if the defendants are permitted to continue making defamatory statements of this nature against the plaintiff,” the judge said.

The high court refused to agree with the defendants’ contention that in cases of defamation, the veracity of allegations can only be tested in trial and the adequate remedy would be damages and not an interim injunction.

It said in cases where the court is of the view that statements are unsubstantiated and have been made in a reckless manner without regard to the truth and to cause injury to the reputation of the plaintiff, the court would be justified in granting an interim injunction.

“If the submission of the defendants is accepted, it would give the defendant free reign to continue making defamatory statements against the plaintiff and continue to tarnish his reputation. Therefore, the court cannot be powerless in such a situation. After suffering the brunt of such defamatory content, it is difficult to contemplate complete restitution through damages. Such cases demand immediate injunctive relief and the court cannot wait for the defendants to place their response on record,” it said.

Dealing with the allegations of exchanging the demonetised currency notes, the court noted that the amount, as mentioned in the CBI FIR, was Rs 17 lakh which has been exaggerated by the defendants many times over, to a fanciful sum of Rs 1400 crore.

Regarding the allegation of AAP and its leaders that a Khadi contract of Rs 80 crore was assigned to Saxena’s daughter while he was the chairman of KVIC, the high court said once again the defendants have made unfounded allegations that an imaginary sum of Rs 80 crore has been paid to the plaintiff’s daughter.

#vinai kumar saxena

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