Court imposes 50 lakh penalty on National Stock Exchange

Bombay High Court: In a significant judgment, a bench comprising of G.S. Patel, J dismissed an application for injunction in a defamation action brought by the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) for an article published in a financial news website. The article in question was based on a letter written by an anonymous whistleblower which alleged that that insiders at the stock exchange had given unfair advantage to certain high-frequency traders.

The Court noted that the journalist who wrote the article, had made repeated attempts to contact the NSE chairman and other NSE members before publishing the article but she had received no response. Instead the journalist and editor of the website were slapped with a 100 crore defamation suit and an injunction seeking removal of the articles.

Dismissing the injunction plea , the Court observed that defamation law is not to be used to gag, to silence, to suppress and to subjugate. The Court went on to say that  “the freedom of speech and expression is arguably the most volatile and the most sensitive to assault and the most precious. We forget that these freedoms have not come easily. They have not come cheap. They were hard won after years of sacrifice and toil and struggle. They have not been given. They have been forged. We surrender them at our peril”.

The Court further commented that it was fashionable these days to deride every section of the media as mere paparazzi but it is forgotten that none of the scams and the leaks of the past two decades would have been possible without journalists, editors, newspapers and television news anchors. The Court also observed that today all our institutions face the crisis of dwindling public confidence and that neither the NSE nor the judiciary were exceptions to this. Terming the actions taken by NSE to be gross abuse of the process of the Court, the Court imposed 50 lakh penalty on NSE of which 1.5 lakh each were to be paid to the journalist and the editor of the website and 47 lakhs to 2 Mumbai hospitals. National Stock Exchange of India vs. Moneylife Media Private Limited, decided on September 9, 2015

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