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Madras High Court: R. Subramanian, J., refused to allow the application filed by Sathiyam Media praying for rejection of plaint filed by the Isha Foundation claiming damages for defamation from the applicant.

Cause of Action

The present application was filed to seek rejection of the plaint due to non-disclosure of the cause of action.

The above-stated suit is pertaining to damages for defamation and for permanent injunction restraining the defendant from publishing or telecasting any material or news item which either directly or indirectly defames the plaintiff foundation.

Plaintiff’s case

The defendant which is a television channel airing news items has been indulging in persistently broadcasting various programs that tend to lower the image of the plaintiff foundation and the founder of the plaintiff foundation.

Disparaging the reputation

Compere of the programmes can be seen to put leading questions with a view to extracting a response which disparages the reputation of the plaintiff foundation and its founder.

Motive: To increase Television Rating Points (TRPs)

Further, the plaintiff added that, the only concern of the defendant was to increase the television rating points and to sensationalize by publishing the response of people who had certain grievances against the plaintiff foundation and its founder.

Defendant sought the rejection of plaint on the ground that few issues which had been raised in the various broadcasts by the defendant were subject matter of certain writ petitions pending before this Court and therefore the suit will have to await the disposal of the petitions.

Counsel for the applicant/defendant P.T. Perumal and Advocate Rajendra Kumar for the respondent/plaintiff.

Analysis

Defamation

Applicant’s counsel invited the Court’s attention to the decision of Gujarat High Court in Narottamdas L Shah v. Patel Maganbhai Revabhai, 1984 Cri. Law Journal 1790 to contend that the suit having been filed by the foundation it should prove that there was a loss caused to the reputation of the foundation as such and reputation being what neighbours and others think about another person unless it is proved that the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of such other person or persons was lowered it cannot be said that there was defamation.

Presence or absence of evidence is essentially a matter to be decided in the suit and not in an application under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC.

Bench stated that the absence of evidence regarding the plaintiff’s damage to the reputation in the eyes of the third person could not form a ground for rejection of plaint at this stage or even at a later stage.

Other Proceedings Pending

In Court’s opinion, if the defendant in an action for defamation raises the defence of truth it is for him to establish it and succeed on the basis of evidence.

Further, it was added that he cannot rely upon or seek the aid of some dispute which is pending before a court of law to prove his case.

“Rejection of a plaint is an extraordinary remedy and the same cannot be invoked on grounds other than the ones specified in the rule itself.”

If there are hundred TV channels and a hundred newspapers and all of them publish defamatory material against an individual or an organisation, the organisation or the individual cannot be forced to file suits for damages against all of them. It is left to the discretion of the plaintiff to decide as to who is to be sued depending on the damage caused.

In view of the above, application was dismissed. [Sathiyam Media Vision (P) Ltd. v. Isha Foundation, 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 33067, decided on 06-08-2019]