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A Bangalore court on February 26 vacated its interim order directing The Wire to take down two articles published in 2017 relating to Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
Chandrasekhar had filed a defamation suit against the news portal in response to two articles titled Arnab’s Republic, Modi’s Ideology and In Whose Interests Do Our Soldiers March?, published in 2017.
The former article, written by Sandeep Bhushan, was about Republic TV, which Chandrasekhar launched along with Arnab Goswami. In the latter piece, Sachin Rao alleged a conflict of interest with Chandrasekhar being a member of the parliamentary committee on defence and investing in defence companies.
On March 2, 2017, Chandrasekhar approached the City Civil Court at Bangalore with a view to obtaining an ex-parte interim injunction against The Wire and its journalists. That very day, civil judge Jinaralkar Bheemrao Lagamappa granted the injunction and prohibited the website from publishing, circulating and tweeting any information that may cause damage to the reputation of Chandrasekhar.
The Wire subsequently took down the articles and posted the legal notice they received from Chandrasekhar.
And now, Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge Ravindra Joshi has reportedly vacated the injunction order, noting,
“The relief sought by the plaintiff at this stage cannot be considered, because press is considered as 4th pillar of constitution. The press is functioning as watch dog of the Constitution. It is the duty of the press to create public opinion about the policy of the Government etc., The right of the press is protected under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India.
Unless the act of the press is held to be derogatory, malicious, defamatory, the press is having right to fair report, comment on the matter having public concern. If the press is restrained from publishing any information about the public or public servants, it amounts to curtailing the right of media person from discharging his duties.”
The order goes on to note,
“On considering the materials on record, this court finds that at this stage, there is no prima facie material to show that the article contained defamatory material. Further, the article published is in the online media publication, which is having accessibility to all…The defendants have no control over the published article since any one can access to this article by social media platform such as twitter, face book etc., The plaintiff has not made out any prima facie or balance of convenience in his favour for grant of injunction as prayed…” (emphasis added)
The Wire reports that Chandrasekhar has approached the Karnataka High Court in appeal against the orders passed by the City Civil and Sessions Judge.
Chandrasekhar had also sought damages of Rs. 20 crore from the news outlet for allegedly defaming him. In the plaint, the Rajya Sabha MP has alleged that he had received numerous enquiries about the “baseless and malicious statements” made in the articles, which have caused him “huge reputational damage”.