The relevant facts of the present defamation case are that the plaintiff is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and is involved in running academic courses under the name and style of “The Indian Institute of Planning and Management”. Defendants are the managing editor, editor, publisher and printer of the magazine, Caravan. Defendant no.4 is the author of the impugned article.
The Plaintiff is aggrieved by the publication of the article “Sweet smell of success – How Arindam Chaudhuri made a fortune of the aspirations and insecurities of India’s middle classes”.
The present application had been filed initially under Order XXXIX Rules 1 & 2 CPC read with Sections 94 and 151 CPC for issuance of a temporary injunction before the Civil Judge, Cachar, Silchar, Assam, but upon a transfer petition being allowed by the Apex Court the same has been renumbered as I.A.No.13152/2017 by the Registry of this Court.
A transfer petition filed in the Supreme Court praying that the case be shifted to the Delhi High Court was granted, and the case came up before the Bench of Justice Manmohan.
Appearing for Chaudhari in the Delhi High Court, Advocate Nishit Kush contended that the magazine carried a morphed image of Chaudhari, showing him as a magician/soothsayer with the intent to portray him as a trickster.
It was further stated that derogatory comments were made against him without any basis and with an intent to create a negative image of Chaudhari amongst the general public.
“freedom of expression does not permit any publication to use the expressions ‘model school than a real one’, ‘the campus appeared sleepy’ and ‘the scruffy management students.”
Representing Caravan Magazine, Advocate Amit Gupta invoked the defence of truthfulness and submitted that none of the impugned statements were made recklessly or without proper research.
After hearing the parties, Justice Manmohan cited the judgment delivered in the case of Shashi Tharoor v. Arnab Goswami which delved into reasonable restrictions on freedom of the press in defamation suits, and observed that,
“In India the Courts have the power to pass pre-publication or pre-broadcasting injunction or prior restraint order in sub judice matters provided the two pronged test of necessity and proportionality are satisfied and reasonable alternative methods or measures are not sufficient to prevent the said risk.”
Reference was also made to a 2014 judgment of the High Court that found IIPM guilty of making false and misleading statements regarding its courses.
The Court vacated the injunction order while holding that it is of the prima facie view that “the defendants have highlighted the evidence which is relevant and material on a matter of substantial importance and there is no material at this stage to conclude that the stories have been published by the defendants with a reckless disregard for truth or precipitated by actual malice or that the defence of justification/truthfulness/fair comment is one that cannot succeed.”