A defamation litigation update

BY APARAJITA LATH| IN Media Practice | 09/06/2014
What happens to the defamation cases instituted against media outlets? The Hoot attempts an update of the status of those filed in recent years.
Researched by APARAJITA LATH. PIX: Amul ad on Sahara Group
What happens to the defamation cases instituted against media outlets? The Hoot attempts an update of the status of those filed in recent years.

1. Gurudas Kamat defamation case against Marathi daily
In May 2014, Gurudas Kamat filed civil and criminal defamation cases against local Marathi daily Vruttmanas for defamatory articles indicating that he would lose in the upcoming elections and that he had hired people for his rally (here). The civil defamation case was filed in the Bombay High Court on May 9, 2014 and is in the pre-admission stage (Case No. - S/522/2014. The case profile is available here). 
As reported, the criminal defamation case was filed before the Metropolitan court in Andheri, however, no further updates are available online (here). 

2. Amul ‘Besahara Parivar’ ad case
In April 2014, as per news reports, a defamation notice was sent by the Sahara Group to Amul for their ad campaign ‘Besahara Parivar’. The ad shows Sahara employees begging for money and is a spoof of the Sahara Group’s corporate case (here). On checking the district court website (under Anand district and all the taluks under it, no case could be found). Even on the Gujarat High Court website no case could be found. No further updates were available online. 

3. Dhoni’s defamation case against Zee and News Nation
On March 18, 2014, as per news reports (here), the Madras High Court restrained Zee Media Corporation Limited and News Nation Network from publishing or telecasting any news content relating to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s connection with alleged acts of betting, spot-fixing and match-fixing. The news channels argue that their report was based on a sting operation and also on the report filed by Justice Mudgal before the Supreme Court of India.

This order was effective for two week (here). The High court website says the case was last updated on May 9, 2014 (Case no- 185 of 2014. The case profile is available on the Madras High Court website here or here).

4. Justice Swatanter Kumar defamation case
On January 15, 2014, Justice Swatanter Kumar filed a defamation case before the Delhi High Court against Times Now, CNN IBN, The Indian Express, Turner International and a law intern who alleged sexual harassment during her internship (Case No. CS(OS) 102/2014. See here for all the orders). 

The media houses were implicated for publication and telecast of ‘baseless and incredulous allegations’ made by a law intern about ‘an imaginary incident nearly three years ago’ (here).

In its first order on January 15, 2014, the Delhi High Court ordered an interim injunction restraining the defendants from telecasting or reporting the event. However, the defendants were allowed to publish/telecast Court orders and proceedings related to the case.

On May 7, 2014, pleadings were complete i.e. the plaint and the written statement were received by the court. Meanwhile, on May 12, 2014, the law intern filed a transfer petition before the Supreme Court asking the Court to transfer the case from the Delhi High Court to the City Civil court in Bangalore or any other court. The petitioner argued that she would not have a fair trial in the Delhi High Court as the plaintiff had served as a judge in the same High Court. 

The case was listed for arguments on May 15, 2014.On May 15, the hearing was adjourned to May 22. In the May 15, 2014 hearing, the plaintiff’s counsel stated that the defendants were violating the court’s order by publishing contents of the transfer petition (which contained details about the incident). No order seems to have been passed on the said contention and the court listed the matter to August 28, 2014. 
Reportedly, the judge (plaintiff) is being represented by 7 senior counsels and 11 advocates.

5. AAP’s defamation case against Deepak Chaurasia
On November 22, 2013, a defamation case was instituted by the Aam Aadmi Party against Deepak Chaurasia for an allegedly fake sting operation that harmed the reputation of the party. The case was reported to be heard on November 27, 2013 (here). However, no further updates are available online. 

6. The Indian Express defamation case against OPEN and Vinod Mehta 
In 2012, the Indian Express sent a legal notice (here) to the OPEN magazine and Vinod Mehta for an interview Mehta gave to OPEN. In this interview he criticised an article in the Indian Express. He indirectly termed the source of the story as ‘some mischief-maker’ and called it the ‘mother of all mistakes’ (here). This dispute has now been settled - a clarification has been issued by OPEN and the impugned write up has been removed (here).

7. Shashi Tharoor defamation case against the Sunday Indian
In November 2011, Shashi Tharoor, through Sherrif Associates, sent a defamation notice to the Sunday Indian (here). The notice alleged that the November 3, 2011 issue of the Sunday Indian contained an online article that indicated that Tharoor had unaccounted money in Swiss Banks and other allegations.

The Kerala HC website did not return any results on searches based on party names. Moreover, on checking the archives of the Sunday Indian, it seems like the allegedly November 3, 2011 article has been taken down (here).  

8. Vapi Industries case against environment reporter
In June 2011, a civil defamation case was filed by Vapi Industries against environment activist and reporter Rohit Prajapati and the Times of India, for a report on pollution in Vapi (Case No. – SPCS 77 of 2011, Valsad District, Vapi Taluk). As per the Vapi Takul court website (here), the case was last heard in January 2014. However, there are no orders available online. 
For the same article, a criminal defamation suit was filed in June 2013 (Case no. CC 1503 of 2013). This case was last updated on April 10, 2014 and is at the stage of ‘process to accused’. No orders are available online. 

9. Caravan and IIPM defamation dispute
In 2011, IIPM filed a Rs. 500 million defamation suit against the Caravan magazine, its proprietors Delhi Press, author Siddhartha Deb, the publishing house Penguin Books India and Google India. IIPM stated that a February, 2011 article titled: “Sweet Smell of Success: How Arindam Chaudhuri Made a Fortune Off the Aspirations – and Insecurities – of India’s Middle Classes”, which profiles Arindam Chaudhuri, his image and how he runs his educational institution, defamed Arindam Chaudhuri. (here)

As per reports, the defamation law suit was filed in the Civil Court of Silchar and a preliminary injunction ordered removal of the impugned write up (here). Caravan then filed a transfer petition before the Supreme Court, in order to transfer the case to Delhi. While hearing the transfer petition, the court stayed the Silchar court’s injunction (here). After August 2011, there are no further updates available on this matter. 
However, in a related issue, in 2013, a Gwalior Court reversed its previous order and lifted the ban on blocking URLs that contained articles that were critical of Arindam Chaudhuri (here).

10. Maheshwar Peri's Careers360 magazine and IIPM
In 2010, Arindam Chaudhuri of IIPM instituted a criminal defamation case against Maheshwar Peri, the founder of Careers360 magazine, for his article about IIPM. As per reports, a Gwalior court held the article to be prima facie defamatory (here). However, in 2010, the Uttarakhand High Court quashed all the proceedings in the criminal complaint against Maheshwar Peri (here). The court also set aside the Criminal Complaint Case No. 5020 of 2009 which was pending before the A.C.J.M, 3rd Dehradun. 

11. Jayalalitha defamation case
In March 2011, Jayalalithaa issued legal notices to three media organisations, including Mid-Day and the DMK backed Kalaignar TV for reports that linked her to businessman Hassan Ali Khan, accused of hoarding black money abroad (here). The notices threatened legal action if the media organisations did not render an apology. No further updates are available online. 

12. Justice Sawant and Times Now case
In 2008, Times Now wrongly displayed Justice Sawant’s photo in relation to the Ghaziabad PF scam. In 2011, a Pune district court order Times Now and Arnab Goswami (Editor-in-chief) to pay 100 crore in damages (here). Times Now preferred to appeal before the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court, however, asked Times Now to deposit 20 crore and furnish a bank guarantee of 80 crore before it took up the appeal (here). Times Now petitioned the Supreme Court to stay the Bombay High Court’s order (here). However, the SC refused to interfere with the Bombay HC order (here).

Bennett Coleman requested the Bombay High Court to accept a corporate guarantee of 100 crores (through property etc.) instead of a bank guarantee of 80 crore. This was accepted by the court (see all orders and case profile here).

On February 13, 2012 an extension of 8 weeks was provided to furnish the corporate guarantee. On March 26, 2012, another extension was given by the court – 4 weeks from 29 April. Then again another extension was provided- six weeks from May 7, 2012. Another extension was given in June 2012. 

Finally, the Bombay High Court website says the case has been admitted but the last order on the website is as old as October, 2012.
No further updates were available online. 


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