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Vinai Kumar Saxena vs. Aam Aadmi Party and Ors. - (High Court of Delhi) (27 Sep 2022)

Right to freedom of speech and expression is not an unfettered right under which defamatory statements can be made to tarnish the reputation of person



The present suit has been filed on behalf of the Plaintiff seeking relief of permanent injunction and damages against the Defendants on account of defamatory statements made on behalf of the Defendants no.1 to 6 on the social media platforms of the Defendants no.7 and 8.

The Plaintiff is the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi and is a Constitutional Authority. The Defendant no.1 is a political party, Aam Aadmi Party. The Defendants no.2 to 6 are office bearers of the Defendant no.1 Party.

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, 1950 afford the right of freedom of speech and expression to all persons. However, the same is subject to restrictions under Article 19(2), which includes defamation. Therefore, the right to freedom of speech and expression is not an unfettered right in the garb of which defamatory statements can be made to tarnish the reputation of a person. The fundamental right to freedom of speech has to be counterbalanced with the right of reputation of an individual, which has been held to be a basic element of the right to life consecrated in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In the present case, the Plaintiff, being a Constitutional Authority, cannot meet the personal attacks being made by the Defendants against him by taking resort to social media platforms. The Defendants have not even bothered to respond to the legal notice sent on behalf of the Plaintiff. Therefore, the only remedy available for the Plaintiff to protect his reputation and prevent erosion of the same would be to approach the court of law and seek injunctive relief.

On a prima facie view, the various statements/interviews/press conferences/tweets/re-tweets/hashtags made by the Defendants are per se defamatory. The same have been made in a reckless manner, without any factual verification, in order to tarnish the reputation of the plaintiff. It cannot be gainsaid that reputation of a person is earned after years and the same cannot be tarnished by any other individual in a casual manner. The damage caused to the reputation of an individual is immediate and far- reaching on the internet. So long as the impugned content continues to be in circulation and visible on social media, it is likely to cause continuing damage to the reputation and image of the Plaintiff.

Balance of convenience is in favour of the Plaintiff and against the Defendants. Grave and irreparable harm and injury would be caused to the reputation of the Plaintiff, if the defamatory content continues to exist on the internet and the social media platforms of the Defendants no.7 and 8 and/or if the Defendants are permitted to continue making defamatory statements of this nature against the Plaintiff. An ad interim injunction is passed against the Defendants. The Defendants no.1 to 6 are restrained from posting any defamatory or factually incorrect tweets, re-tweets, hashtags, videos of press conferences/interviews, comments, captions and taglines against the plaintiff and/or his daughter in any manner.


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