Delhi HC restrains AAP from posting defamatory statements against RLP MP Hanuman Beniwal

Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta issued summons to defendants on the lawsuit by Beniwal and others against a series of allegedly defamatory tweets made earlier this month.

Published: 15th June 2022 10:18 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2022 10:18 PM   |  A+A-

Rashtriya Loktantrik Party chief Hanuman Beniwal

Rashtriya Loktantrik Party chief Hanuman Beniwal (photo| Facebook)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has restrained Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its MLA Vinay Mishra from posting defamatory, scandalous, or factually incorrect statements against Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) leader and MP Hanuman Beniwal and other party legislators concerning the Rajya Sabha polls without any cogent evidence.

Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta issued summons to defendants on the lawsuit by Beniwal and others against a series of allegedly defamatory tweets made earlier this month by the city's lawmaker and AAP's election in-charge for Rajasthan.

The judge said that unfounded allegations in media can be damaging forever if there is no opportunity to vindicate one's reputation and restrained the defendants, AAP and Mishra, from re-publishing, releasing or circulating, etc any defamatory statements concerning the tweets till further orders.

Beniwal told the court that following his tweet announcing that the three RLP MLAs would not vote for the BJP and Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections but would support an independent candidate, the AAP MLA "started a malicious campaign" against the plaintiffs and their party.

It was further alleged that the defendants got news circulated on various dates concerning their tweets and allegations which were ex-facie false, concocted, slanderous, scandalous, and derogatory.

Justice Mendiratta, in the interim order dated June 13, said that plaintiffs (Beniwal and others) established a prima facie case in their favour, and if the ex-parte interim relief is not granted, they are likely to further lose their credibility in public life and directed Twitter, one of the defendants, to immediately "mask, block or suspend" the objectionable tweets in question.

The court observed that voting strategy is based upon a political party's ideology and policy and "alleging that the same had been sold off, without any foundational basis, deeply causes an irreparable harm, loss, and damage to the reputation of the party concerned" and it cannot be ruled out that the tweets may have been actuated by malice with an attempt to impact the Rajya Sabha elections.

The court asserted that freedom of speech has to be exercised with circumspection and care and the image of political functionaries, who spend their lifetime building it, "cannot be permitted to be tumbled by baseless, defamatory statements by any political entity/individual for petty gains."

"I am of the considered opinion that if the same (tweets) are permitted to continue on record, it is likely to further blemish/blot the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiffs and may cause a misimpression in the trust of the voters/supporters of the party or common citizens of the country in the absence of any cogent evidence. It cannot be ruled out that the tweets may have been actuated by malice with an attempt to impact the Rajya Sabha elections which were scheduled for 10th June 2022 and to cause a loss of reputation to the plaintiffs, which may have been built by sheer dedication and hard work over a long period of time," said the court.

The court said that the tweets in question prima facie appeared to be libellous and per se defamatory and "the same appear to be reckless in the absence of any supporting material reflected in the aforesaid tweets."

"In view of above, defendant Nos. 1 & 2 (Mishra and AAP) are restrained and injuncted from re-publishing, releasing, transmitting, distributing or publishing, circulating through print or electronic media any defamatory statements in relation to the tweets dated 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th June 2022, till further orders," the court ordered.

"The defendant Nos. 1&2 are also restrained from posting any further defamatory or scandalous or factually incorrect tweet on Twitter account or electronic/print media against the plaintiffs specifically in relation to tweets referred to above without any clear and cogent evidence," it further said The defendants cannot be permitted to further inflict injury on the reputation of the plaintiffs by virtue of re-tweeting similar tweets which appear to be calculated to injure the reputation of the plaintiffs, the court added.

"The voting strategy of an individual or of a political party or their nominees is purely based upon the ideology and policy of the political party or an individual, and alleging that the same had been sold off, without any foundational basis, deeply causes an irreparable harm, loss, and damage to the reputation of the individual/party concerned and clearly encroaches the right of privacy," the court said.

"This freedom needs to be exercised with circumspection and care and cannot be permitted to violate the rights of other citizens and to jeopardize their public interest. More so, in the case of political functionaries, who spend their lifetime for building their image in the public, the same cannot be permitted to be tumbled by baseless, defamatory statements by any political entity/individual for petty gains."

"Further, it cannot be ignored that with the advent of the internet, the impact of the views formulated and disseminated on electronic media has a considerable impact on the viewers and followers and mould the public opinion on vital issues of political and national importance," it stated.

The court said that its observations are prima facie for the consideration of interim relief and listed the matter for further hearing on July 18.


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