Delhi High Court: Mini Pushkarna, J. granted ad interim injunction against Pawan Khera and others (‘defendants’) who allegedly organized a Press Conference dated 23-07-2022 from New Delhi wherein various wild and defamatory allegations were made against Smriti Zubin Irani (‘plaintiff’) without any substance, pertaining to a statutory license in respect of food and beverages operations at a restaurant, named, Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, located in Goa.
Smriti Irani (‘plaintiff’) is a highly respected citizen of the country and a Minister in the Union Cabinet of India, currently administrating the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Minority Affairs. It was alleged that the defendant 1, 2 and 3 organized a Press Conference on 23-07-2022 from New Delhi. During the course of the Press Conference, various wild and defamatory allegations were made against the plaintiff without any substance, pertaining to a statutory license in respect of food and beverages operations at a restaurant, named, Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, located in Goa.
Various false and defamatory contents of the utterances of the defendant 1, 2, 3 in the Press Conference were used and continued to be used by the defendant 1, 2, 3 and various other individuals and entities, directly and indirectly disseminating such and similar misrepresentation on various social media websites . Aggrieved by this, an application was filed under Order XXXIX Rules 1 & 2 read with Section 151 Civil Procedure Code (‘CPC’) by the plaintiff seeking an ad-interim injunction.
The Court noted after perusing various documents filed before the Court by the plaintiff and also the excerpts from the Press Conference carried out by the defendant Nos. 1, 2, 3, that slanderous and libelous allegations have been made against the plaintiff without verifying the actual facts. Great injury has been caused to the reputation of the plaintiff and her family in view of the various tweets and re-tweets which have followed the Press Conference carried out by the defendant Nos. 1, 2 & 3.
Placing reliance on Ram Jethmalani v. Subramaniam Swamy, 2006 SCC OnLine Del 14, the Court observed that considering the documents on record it is clear that there was no license ever issued in favour of the plaintiff or her daughter. The plaintiff or her daughter are not the owners of the restaurant, infact they never applied for a license. Neither the restaurant nor the land on which the restaurant exists is owned by the plaintiff or her daughter, even the show cause notice issued by the Government of Goa is not in the name of the plaintiff or her daughter as also stands affirmed in the affidavit by the plaintiff.
The Court held the plaintiff has been able to make out a prima facie case. Balance of convenience also lies in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants. Thus, if the defamatory allegations and contents linked to it, is allowed to remain on the internet and social media platforms, then the extent of damage to the plaintiff could be of immense magnitude and injurious to the reputation of the plaintiff and her family.
The Court thus passed an ad-interim injunction directing defendant 1, 2 & 3 to delete and remove the allegations, video of impugned Press Conference dated 23-07-2022 and the contents linked to the same published against the plaintiff from all the social media platforms, namely, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Court further directed the defendant 4 to 6 to remove the allegations, videos, posts, tweets, re-tweets, captions, taglines along with the morphed pictures of the plaintiff and her daughter along with the underlined material with such defamatory content or anything similar thereto including recirculation on their respective platforms. In case of failure to comply with the directions within 24 hours of pronouncement of the order, defendant 4 to 6 are directed to take down the tweets and other materials on the URLs as well as other tweets which may appear in the plaint thereof.
[Smriti Zubin Irani v. Pawan Khera, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2310, decided on 29-07-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Plaintiff: Mr. Rajiv Nayar, Mr. N.K. Kaul, Ms. Pinky Anand, Sr. Advocates with Mr. Kirat Singh Nagra, Mr. Kartik Yadav, Mr. Pranav Vyas, Mr. Manhar S. Saini, Mr. Hardik Jain, Ms. Sumedha Chadha, Mr. Saurabh Seth, Mr. Dhruv Sharma, Mr. Anil Soni, Advocates
For Defendant: Counsel for D-1, 2 3 (appearance not given). Mr. Dayan Krishnan, Sr. Advocate with Mr. Saransh Jain, Mr. Ankit Agarwal, Ms. Shloka N., Mr. Shaurya Rai, Mr. Sanjeevi, Mr. Sukrit, Advocates for D-6/Twitter, Inc
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.