The Delhi High Court has summoned a Hindi daily and its reporters in response to a plea filed by BJP MP Gautam Gambhir. The plea requests the court to direct the media outlet to retract alleged defamatory publications containing “false and slanderous” statements made against him.
The court, however, declined to pass an interim order on the petition “at this stage”. As an interim relief, Gambhir sought a court order to the media house to immediately withdraw “defamatory” publications against him and to restrain it from making similar allegations during the pendency of the suit.
The high court said it was of the prima facie opinion that many of these articles are indicative of willful campaign launched by the defendants — the Hindi daily and four others including its three reporters to lower the reputation of Gambhir in the eyes of public.
The court, however, told the cricketer-turned-politician that being a public servant he should be thick skinned.
Also Read: SC: Granting power to LG to nominate aldermen may destabilise elected MCD
It said it does not befit a newspaper of repute to indulge in such conduct and prima facie the court was satisfied that the matter requires consideration and summons must be issued to the five defendants.
Upon a bare reading of the impugned news articles, this court is of the prima facie opinion that many of these articles are indicative of willful campaign launched by the defendants to lower the reputation of standing of the plaintiff in the eyes of his constituents, supporters and the public at large.
In the opinion of this court, this does not befit a newspaper of the repute and stature of the defendants to indulge in such a conduct. Let the plaint be registered as a suit. Issue summons, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said in an 8-page order.
Gambhir claimed in his suit the defendants were publishing “false and malicious” reports against him and sought the courts direction to them to tender unconditional apology which shall be published in all newspapers brought out and circulated by the media house.
The high court also issued notice to them on the application for interim relief and listed the matter for further hearing on October 18.
Also Read: Delhi: School evacuated after bomb threat, nothing suspicious found yet
You are a public servant, you need not to be so sensitive. Any public person should be thick skinned. Otherwise, social media etc Nowadays judges should also be thick skinned, the judge said.
As an interim relief, Gambhir sought a court order to the newspaper to immediately withdraw the alleged defamatory publications targeting him and to restrain it from making similar allegations during the pendency of the suit.
Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, representing Gambhir, said he was a well-known public servant and cricketer and the publication was targeting him as the articles brought out by it over the last one year were deeply malicious and vindictive in nature.
He alleged nasty averments were made against Gambhir and it seemed the media house was on some sort of mission. It was not doing fair or objective reporting, the lawyer said.
Also Read: Delhi government issues show cause notice to ‘absconding’ IAS officer
Dehadrai submitted fair reporting means input has to be taken from the person concerned (Gambhir) also before publishing any article but no opinion was sought from the politician by the newspaper or its reporters.
After going through the articles placed on record by Gambhir, the court also told senior advocate Raj Shekhar Rao, appearing for the media house, it was of the prima facie opinion that the reporter is after this person (Gambhir) and some of the words and sentences that he has used are not proper for the newspaper to report.
The newspapers counsel opposed the application for interim relief and sought some time to file reply or objections. He also opposed the suit saying the daily newspaper was not a legal entity and person named as editor-in-chief was not holding the said position in the organisation.
Gambhir claimed the newspaper and its certain reporters have been intentionally publishing false and defamatory articles with a view to damaging his reputation.
Also Read: SIT set up to probe sexual harassment allegation against WFI chief: Delhi Police to court
He alleged the defendants have directly and indirectly defamed the plaintiff, while projecting the publication as an innuendo.
Gambhir’s counsel said a legal notice was sent to the newspaper on November 23 last year asking it to cease and desist from any defamatory publication against the BJP MP but no response was received till date.
Gambhir has also sought Rs 2 crore in damages which would be donated to charitable organisations identified by the plaintiff.