Observing that a retweet brings the contents of original tweet into immediate attention of the followers of the user who retweets, the Delhi High Court has dismissed the petition of AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha challenging the summons issued to him in a defamation case filed by Union Minister Arun Jaitley while leaving it to the trial court to decide if retweeting would attract liability under section 499 IPC.
Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal said the trial court has considered all relevant material to hold that there was a prima facie case to summon the petitioner and it does not call for any interference of the high court at this stage.
Here is a ‘who said what’ from the judgment:
Raghav Chadha’s Stand
Raghav Chadha had challenged the March 9 order of the trial court by which he was summoned as one of the accused in the defamation case.
Chadha had retweeted an alleged defamatory tweet posted by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Jaitley’s alleged mismanagement in the Delhi District Cricket Association. He had earlier moved the Supreme Court which has asked the high court to decide the petition.
Senior advocate Anand Grover argued on behalf of Raghav Chadha that all communications allegedly made by the petitioner were in electronic form, which is solely covered by the Information and Technology Act and not by section 499 IPC.
He also argued that retweet does not amount to publication for the purpose of section 499 IPC.
He also argued that Chadha had been wrongly summoned as he had only retweeted from his twitter handle.
On the other hand, Siddharth Luthra argued for Jaitley that retweeting falls within the ambit of section 499 IPC by virtue of it being a fresh representation and publication of the original defamatory comment by repeating and endorsing it publicly.
He also argued that striking down of section 66A of the IT Act does not affect the right of an aggrieved person who has been defamed and can avail the remedy under the provisions of sections 499/500 IPC.
He also submitted that the case is not restricted to only retweets, but also to statements made in print and electronic media.
The court said it cannot embark upon weighing evidence at this stage to see if an offence is made out under section 499 IPC, but added that on a reading of the IT Rules 2011, in conjunction with section 79 of the IT Act, the outcome is that the guidelines are binding on the service providers and do not provide a remedy for criminal defamation, therefore, it can be construed that the remedy lies under section 499 of the IPC.
On the argument that retweeting is not publication, the court set upon analysing what is Twitter, Tweet and Retweet.
While dealing with the arguments, the meaning of Twitter, Tweet and Retweet needs to be analysed, it said.
“Twitter is an online global message broadcasting platform where and people tweet, discover and distribute content. This content is in the form of alphanumeric message comprising maximum 140 characters in length and is known as Tweet,” it noted.
She noted that retweet brings the contents of original tweet into immediate attention of the followers of the user who retweet.
The court noted that the case did not confine to mere retweet, but statements made by AAP leaders in the print and electronic media.
“There is sufficient material on record to show that the petitioner is a spokesperson of the political party of which other accused or office-bearers and functionaries and belongs to a close knit group and followed A-1 (Kejriwal) to carry out entire campaign using the press conference, post on FB, Tweet and retweet…
“Whether retweeting would attract the liability under section 499 IPC is a question which requires to be determined in the totality of the circumstances and the same then have to be determined during trial and any interference at this stage by this court is likely to prejudice the findings of the trial court,” said Justice Dhingra.
“Undoubtedly the trial court in its order dated March 9 perused the complaint documents, evidence and all other relevant material and after careful scrutiny summoned the petitioner on a well reasoned order holding that a prima facie case was made out against the petitioner and there was a grounds for summoning him to face trials under section 499/500 IPC,” she added before dismissing the petition.