HC orders removal of posts by Cong leaders against journalist Rajat Sharma | India News

HC orders removal of posts by Cong leaders against journalist Rajat Sharma | India News

HC orders removal of posts by Cong leaders against journalist Rajat Sharma | India News

IndiaTV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma (Photo: Flickr)

The Delhi High Court has ordered removal of social media posts by Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Pawan Khera and Ragini Nayak alleging that veteran journalist Rajat Sharma used “abusive language” during his show on the Lok Sabha election result day.

The court said an irreparable loss and injury would be caused to the plaintiff’s reputation if the videos and posts on X were allowed to remain in the public domain.

Justice Neena Bansal Krishna said it is prima facie evident from the footage of the TV debate played in the court that plaintiff Sharma had “barely intervened for a few seconds and no abusive language was used” against Nayak.

The social media posts berating the journalist are an “over-sensationalisation”, the court said.

“It cannot be denied that the citizens have a right to freedom of speech and expression but there was also a corresponding duty to remain truthful to the incident. The X posts berating the plaintiff are nothing but an over-sensationalisation and depiction of facts which are patently false,” the court said in its 18-page order passed on Friday and uploaded on its website on Saturday.

The court said the balance of convenience lies in favour of the plaintiff as by making these videos private or injuncting them from being available on public platforms, no infringement on the rights of defendants will be caused.

However, the inconvenience that would result from these videos and X posts continuing to remain in the public domain may not be compensated by damages in future, it said.

“It is directed that the X posts/tweets which have not been removed be removed within seven days by defendants in terms of the Intermediary Guidelines.

“It is further directed that the videos which are in the public domain be made private by defendant No.2 (Google India) and (are) not to be put in the public domain, without the orders of this court,” the court stated.

It also issued summons to the defendants including the three Congress leaders, X Corp, Google India and Meta Platforms in the lawsuit and listed it for further hearing on July 11.

Sharma’s counsel had urged the court to grant ex-parte relief by ordering removal of the alleged offensive posts and videos against him on social media and restraining the political leaders from making allegations against him.

The controversy arose after Nayak accused Sharma of abusing her on national television during a debate on his show on June 4.

Sharma, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Independent News Service Private Limited (INDIA TV), was also present in the court during the hearing on Friday.

Sharma’s counsel had said while the debate was happening on the channel on the evening of June 4, the Congress leaders started tweeting only on June 10 and 11.

He had contended that a clip of the show was being circulated in which an abuse had been inserted whereas the original footage does not contain any such content.

“There is no abuse. Six days after the live show, they tweet that this anchor has used (an) abuse against this lady. They held a press conference on June 11. On June 4, she did not say there was any abuse. She did not hear it on that day,” the senior lawyer had submitted.

The high court said in its order that while the threshold of public criticism and alleged defamatory X posts and YouTube videos on intermediary platforms is much higher, the individual dignity and honour of a person cannot be allowed to be defamed or disrepute brought to him on the ground of the right to free speech and expression.

“No harm would be caused to the defendants if the material is restrained from remaining in public domain till the suit is adjudicated on merits, while these tweets have a potential of bringing disrepute to the plaintiff in future with practically no reparation to the damage to his reputation,” it said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Jun 15 2024 | 6:05 PM IST

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