Strong prima facie case made out in Abhishek Manu Singhvi's favour: Delhi Court restrains sale of Sarosh Zaiwalla's book
Litigation News

Strong prima facie case made out in Abhishek Manu Singhvi's favour: Delhi Court restrains sale of Sarosh Zaiwalla's book

Aditi Singh

Pursuant to a suit filed by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a Delhi Court today restrained publisher HarperCollins from marketing, selling or supplying Sarosh Zaiwalla's book titled “Honour Bound: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in English Court”. (Dr Abhishek Singhvi v. Sarosh Zaiwalla).

The Court has also restrained London-based lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla from making any "further unverified, unsubstantiated and ex facie defamatory statements" concerning Singhvi and his family.

Singhvi appeared in the case in person along with Advocates Vijay Aggarwal, Jaiveer Shergill, Naman Joshi and Naveen Kapila.

The order was passed by District Judge Sanjiv Jain in a suit initiated by Singhvi against Zaiwalla, HarperCollins India and others.

The suit was filed for a permanent and mandatory injunction with respect to the allegedly defamatory statements contained in Zaiwalla's book and a Times of India article titled 'I learnt from Bofors never to act in a case involving internal Indian politics, says Sarosh Zaiwalla'.

As ex-parte and ad-interim temporary relief, Singhvi had also sought a stay on the sale of the book and to restain Zaiwalla from making further defamatory statements concerning him or his family.

Singhvi has claimed that Zaiwalla, in his book, has made defamatory remarks against his late father LM Singhvi in relation to the Bofors deal.

It is stated that Zaiwalla made a reference that then External Affairs Minister Madhav Singh Solanki said that a certain Indian lawyer gave him an envelope containing a letter urging the Swiss government to close its inquiry into the kickbacks received by Indian politicians in the Bofors deal.

To debunk the rumours that the lawyer who handed the envelope was himself, Zaiwalla has mentioned in his book that journalist Vir Sanghvi told him that the lawyer might have been LM Singhvi.

Claiming that these allegations are speculative and hearsay, Singhvi informed the Court that Zaiwalla's "source of information", Vir Sanghvi, has himself clearly denied any such communication.

It was further submitted that the publisher HarperCollins failed to act as a responsible publishing house and chose to publish ex facie defamatory statements and content without any efforts to check the same or by reaching out to Singhvi.

The Court was also informed that Zaiwalla has already been summoned in a criminal defamation case filed by Singhvi in connection with the allegations made in the book.

In view of the submissions made by Singhvi, the Court observed that making a "fair comment" implied a genuine effort to reach the truth and a mere belief without any reasonable grounds was not synonymous with "fair comment".

Adding that it was also the duty of the publisher to act with due care and caution, the Court remarked,

"A person is entitled to be treated with dignity. He has right of social reputation as an ordinary citizen. Even if he be a public figure and as reputation has a cherished value and an element of personal security, portions of the book which made readers think that he is an ambitious villain, until so proved in the court of law are necessarily to be restrained from being published and distributed for sale."
Delhi Court

The Court added that right to reputation of a living individual could not be sacrificed at the altar of free speech.

"Merely because there have been publications on the same issue, the same does not permit making further unverified and unsubstantiated defamatory statements concerning the plaintiff and his family and publishing the statements made in the Article and distributing or marketing the same to the individuals or book vendors/sellers etc for reading or further resale during the pendency of the suit."

In view of the above, the Court opined that a strong prima facie case had been made out by Singhvi and that irreparable harm to his reputation would be caused if injunctions were not granted.

It was accordingly ordered,

"The defendant no. 1 (Zaiwalla) is accordingly restrained from making any further unverified, unsubstantiated, and ex facie defamatory statements concerning the plaintiff and his family.. during the pendency of the suit. Similarly, defendants no. 2, 4-5 ( HarperCollins, Amazon, Filpkart, John Doe) or their associates, agents, representatives, wholesalers and/or distributors are restrained from marketing, selling or supplying the book titled “Honour Bound: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in English Court” to individuals or bool vendors/sellers for reading or further resale during the pendency of the present suit till the next date of hearing."
Delhi Court

The matter will be heard next on May 4.

Read the Order:

Dr Abhishek Singhvi v. Sarosh Zaiwalla.pdf
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