Courts Update Delhi HC directs journalist Saket Gokhale and Twitter to...

Delhi HC directs journalist Saket Gokhale and Twitter to remove defamatory tweets against former Indian diplomat Lakshmi Puri

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New Delhi, July 13 (ILNS): The Delhi High Court today directed journalist Saket Gokhale to take down his alleged tweets against former Indian diplomat Lakshmi Puri that she had purchased properties in Switzerland disproportionate to her known source of income.

Justice C Hari Shankar disposed of the defamation suit filed by Puri seeking damages to the tune of Rs 5 crore, besides an order to take down the tweets, directed Gokhale as well as Twitter to take down the alleged defamatory tweets.

Gokhale in his tweets last month had referred to a property purchased by Puri in Switzerland and raised questions regarding her and her husband’s assets.

Puri, who was the former Assistant Secretary-General at the United States, in her suit said the tweets are “maliciously motivated and designed accordingly, laced with canards and entail deliberate twisting of facts”.

The Court had heard detailed arguments advanced by Mr. Maninder Singh, Senior
Counsel for the plaintiff and Mr. Sarim Naved, Counsel for the defendant on the last date and reserved its orders for today.

The Court had asked Mr. Naved as to whether his client had approached any governmental or other official authority, or even sought any clarification from the plaintiff, before uploading the tweets. To which he answered in the negative. He points out, however, that the defendant “tagged” the Finance Minister in his first tweet which according to him, constitutes due notice to the Finance Minister.

A second query was put to Mr. Naved as to whether the law permitted any citizen, who had
any grievance against a retired public servant or against a person standing for election,
regarding any declaration or affidavit made by such person, to make allegations against such persons on social media platforms without, in the first instance, seeking any clarification in that regard either from the said person or from any competent public authority. To this Mr. Naved’s response was that “unfortunately, that is the law”.Mr. Naved was, therefore, requested to provide any judgement, which would support such a
stand. He has been unable to provide any such judgement. He candidly acknowledges that he has not come across any judgement to the said effect, but submits that that is his understanding of the law.

The court today disposed of the petition filed by Puri with the following terms- 

Saket Gokhale is directed to immediately release from his Twitter Account, all tweets against the plaintiff on the present plaint as well as all connected tweets which may form part of the trail of tweets by the defendant against Puri.

The Court directed Saket Gokhale to restrain till further orders from posting any defamatory or scandalous or factually incorrect tweet on his Twitter account against the plaintiff.

In event of the defendant failing to comply with directions within 24 hours of the pronouncement of this order, Twitter is directed to take down the tweets configuring on the said URLs. For this purpose, the plaintiff is directed to implead Twitter as an additional defendant in present proceedings and file an amended memo of parties within 24 hours of pronouncement of this order. Copy of this order is forwarded forthwith to Twitter to ensure compliance, the court said and also directed “Twitter to file Compliance Report before next date of hearing,” said the Court. 

The Court further said, “Since the order is passed in emergent circumstances without waiting for reply, right of a defendant to apply for modification or vacation of this order remains reserved. All observations are only prima facie, meant for the purpose of disposing of prayer of plaintiff for interim relief. Issued summons in main suit. The court listed the matter before the Joint Registrar on September 10, 2021.”

A suit was filed, by Karanjawala & Co, on behalf of Ms. Lakshmi Murdeshwar Puri,
wife of Cabinet Minister Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri, seeking Mandatory Injunction, Damages and Costs along with interim reliefs. Senior Advocate- Mr. Maninder Singh (Former ASG) argued on behalf of Ms. Lakshmi M. Puri, who was briefed by a team from Karanjawala & Company comprising of Ms. Meghna Mishra- Partner along with Mr. Dheeraj P. Deo and Mr. Tarun Sharma, Advocates.
Mr. Sarim Naved -Advocate represented the Defendant, Mr. Saket Gokhale/ ILNS/SS/SNG

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