Delhi HC directs TMC's Saket Gokhale to apologise to ex-diplomat Lakshmi Puri, pay Rs 50L damages

The Court also directed Saket Gokhale to publish an apology on his own Twitter (now X), handle and retain it for six months.
TMC leader Saket Gokhale.
TMC leader Saket Gokhale. (Photo | ANI)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court directed TMC leader Saket Gokhale on Monday to apologise and pay Rs 50 lakh damages to former diplomat Lakshmi Murdeshwar Puri, the wife of Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri, for his defamatory tweets against her over the purchase of a property in Switzerland.

Hearing the defamation lawsuit filed by the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani also restrained the TMC Member of Parliament from publishing any more content on any social media or electronic platform concerning his imputation.

"The offending tweets are per se defamatory; that the plaintiff has suffered undeserved legal injury to her reputation which warrants redressal," the court ruled.

Puri approached the high court in 2021, alleging that Gokhale tarnished her good name and reputation by making reckless and false allegations about her financial affairs in the context of an apartment that she owned in Geneva.

Justice Bhambhani said allegations of financial impropriety dent the very foundations of a person's reputation and while the damage caused to the plaintiff's reputation by the offending tweets cannot be effaced completely, an unconditional apology is the very least that is required.

TMC leader Saket Gokhale.
Delhi HC directs activist Saket Gokhale to remove tweets against ex-diplomat Lakshmi Puri 

"The very first thing that defendant No.1 (Gokhale) is directed to do is to publish an apology in the following terms on his own Twitter (now X), handle from which he had put out the offending tweets, as also prominently in (a newspaper)," the court said.

"It is this court's view that no amount of monetary award can truly compensate for damage to reputation. However, upon a balance of all considerations, defendant No.1 is directed to pay to the plaintiff damages in the sum of Rs 50 lakh within eight weeks," it ordered.

The court said the apology shall be retained on Gokhale's 'X' handle for six months from the date it is published.

Represented by the law firm Karanjawala and Company, Puri had sought Rs 5 crore damages from Gokhale for his libellous statements against her and her family.

In the 62-page judgment, the court observed that Gokhale initially entered an appearance through his counsel and filed his written statement but subsequently, chose "simply not to appear or be represented in the matter, as if he did not care about the outcome of the proceedings at all".

In July 2021, the high court passed an interim order, restraining Gokhale from posting any defamatory or scandalous tweets against Lakshmi Murdeshwar Puri or her husband Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

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