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June 15, 2024

Delhi High Court Orders Removal of Defamatory Posts Against Journalist Rajat Sharma

The Delhi High Court has mandated the removal of social media posts by Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Pawan Khera, and Ragini Nayak, which accused veteran journalist Rajat Sharma of using “abusive language” during his show on the day of the Lok Sabha election results. The court’s decision highlights the tension between freedom of speech and the protection of individual reputation.

Justice Neena Bansal Krishna, who presided over the case, emphasized that allowing the contested videos and posts to remain online would cause “irreparable loss and injury” to Sharma’s reputation. Upon reviewing the footage from the TV debate, the court found no evidence of Sharma using abusive language towards Nayak. Instead, it was noted that Sharma had “barely intervened for a few seconds” during the segment.

The court criticized the social media posts for being an “over-sensationalisation” of the event, stating that while citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, they also have a duty to be truthful. The posts in question were deemed to be false representations of the incident, aimed at defaming Sharma.

In its 18-page order, the court stated that the balance of convenience favors Sharma. It argued that making the videos private or removing them from public platforms would not infringe upon the defendants’ rights. However, allowing the defamatory content to remain online could cause lasting damage to Sharma’s reputation, which could not be adequately compensated by future damages.

The court directed that the posts and tweets on X (formerly known as Twitter) be removed within seven days, in accordance with the Intermediary Guidelines. Additionally, the court ordered that videos related to the incident be made private by Google India and kept from the public domain without further court orders.

Summons were also issued to the defendants, including the three Congress leaders, X Corp, Google India, and Meta Platforms. The case is scheduled for a further hearing on July 11.

Sharma’s counsel had sought ex-parte relief, requesting the immediate removal of the offensive posts and videos, and a restraining order against the political leaders from making further allegations. The controversy originated from Nayak’s accusation that Sharma had abused her on national television during a debate on his show on June 4. Sharma, who is the chairman and editor-in-chief of Independent News Service Private Limited (INDIA TV), was present in court during the hearing.

According to Sharma’s counsel, the Congress leaders began tweeting about the alleged abuse six days after the live show. They argued that the clip being circulated had been altered to include an abuse that was not present in the original footage. The senior lawyer highlighted that Nayak did not mention any abuse on the day of the debate, only raising the issue days later.

The high court underscored that while public figures are subject to higher thresholds of criticism, the dignity and honor of individuals must be protected. The order stressed that no harm would come to the defendants if the material was restrained from the public domain until the case is adjudicated. Conversely, the defamatory tweets and videos posed a significant risk to Sharma’s reputation, with little potential for reparation.

This ruling underscores the judiciary’s role in balancing freedom of expression with the protection of individual reputations, particularly in an era where social media can amplify and distort events rapidly and widely.

Read more latest news on R9 News

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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