The Delhi High Court on Tuesday (July 13) took serious cognizance of activist Saket Gokhale’s defamatory posts against retired diplomat Lakshmi Puri and asked Gokhale to remove the questionable tweets within 24 hours, failing which the responsibility rests with Twitter to delete them.
Lakshmi Puri is a former Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations and the wife of Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
Justice C Hari Shanker also warned Gokhale against posting “defamatory or scandalous or factually incorrect tweets” against Lakshmi Puri or her husband. “How can you be vilifying people like this? Knock off these things from the website,” Justice Shanker told Gokhale’s lawyer. “If you have a problem with the public functionaries, you must go to them first,” he added.
Justice C Hari Shanker said, “According to your understanding of the law, anyone, any Tom, Dick and Harry can write anything about anyone on the website. Anyone can write anything vilificatory against anyone on the internet and there is no way the court can interfere with it at all irrespective of whether it completely damages the reputation of the person concerned. This is your understanding of the law.”
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, who represented Lakshmi Puri, said that Gokhale “has no decency.” “We serve the government for more than 30 years and this is what we get,” Singh told the court. Last week, Singh had said that Gokhale was making these allegations to increase his followers on Twitter so that he can raise money through crowdfunding.
When the court asked Gokhale’s lawyer, Advocate Sarim Naved, if his client is ready to remove the tweets, Naved said he wasn’t. Last week also Gokhale had refused to take down the tweets despite court orders.
The court told Twitter to file a compliance report before the next date of hearing.
In June, Gokhale had put tweets referring to a property purchased by Lakshmi Puri in Switzerland and asked questions with regards to the couple’s assets. Gokhale had sought Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) intervention in the matter.
Advocate Naved defended his client saying Gokhale asked the questions basis an election affidavit of Union minister Puri. Naved justified Gokhale’s questioning saying that the Supreme Court too has said that the assets of a candidate and their spouse are a matter for public comment.