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Gujarat HC restores gag order on The Wire in Jay Shah defamation case

Gujarat HC restores gag order on The Wire in Jay Shah defamation case

Aditya AK

The Gujarat High Court today restored the gag order preventing The Wire from reporting or publishing any content related to Jay Shah, pending the disposal of the defamation suit filed against the publication.

The matter has its genesis in an article published by The Wire on October 8 last year, alleging impropriety in the dealings of Jay Shah, son of BJP President Amit Shah. In reaction to the article, the younger Shah filed a civil defamation suit of Rs. 100 crore against the publication and its journalists on October 12.

On that very day, BK Dasondi, 4th Additional Senior Civil Judge, Ahmedabad Rural, had passed an ex parte order effectively preventing The Wire from publishing, in any form, media related to the article dated October 8.

An appeal against this order preferred before the Gujarat High Court would be dismissed in November, with the Court leaving it open for the appellants to file a counter to the suit, or an application before the trial court.

Pursuant to an appeal in the trial court by The Wire, the ex parte interim injunction would stand vacated, vide an order passed on December 23, 2017. The trial court had ruled that the injunction would be restricted only to the line “Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister/elected as Prime Minister”.

Shah, represented by Senior Advocate ND Nanavaty, would then approach the High Court in appeal against this order. After hearing Nanavaty and Senior Counsel Mihir Joshi, who appeared for The Wire and its editors, Justice Paresh Upadhyay reserved judgment in the matter on January 19.

Having considering the submissions made by both sides, the main question before the Court was whether the trial court erred in passing the order dated December 23, partly vacating the injunction passed against The Wire. Justice Upadhyay went on to consider the three prerequisites for granting injunction, namely – a prima facie case, balance of convenience, and irreparable loss caused to one of the parties.

The Court then established that the trial court had indeed noted in its order that there was a prima facie case of defamation in favour of Shah. As regards the remaining two conditions, it was held,

“From record it transpires that, the Trial Court has, in terms, arrived at the conclusion in favour of the plaintiff on these issues. This Court has considered the reasons and the satisfaction recorded by the Trial Court in the impugned order, more particularly in Para : 22 and 23 of the order.”

Considering these aspects, the High Court felt that there was no reason for the trial court to dilute its previous order granting injunction.

“This Court finds that, on the basis of the above satisfaction, the Trial Court was required to pass appropriate restrain order by allowing Exh.5 application of the plaintiff. The Trial Court did grant relief to the plaintiff, however, the Trial Court fell in error by restricting the relief in favour of the plaintiff to the limited extent of ‘referring to the name of Hon’ble the Prime Minister’”

Thus, the High Court ruled that earlier order imposing a gag on The Wire would continue to hold the field, pending the disposal of the defamation suit.

Founding Editor of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan revealed on Twitter that the publication would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

Read the order: