5 Jun 2023 5:44 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Monday directed two individuals to take down prima facie defamatory content against Covishield vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India and its CEO Adar Poonawala in a Rs. 100 crore defamation suit.The court further restrained them from publishing further defamatory content. Justice Riyaz Chagla disposed of the interim application filed by SII and Adar...
The Bombay High Court on Monday directed two individuals to take down prima facie defamatory content against Covishield vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India and its CEO Adar Poonawala in a Rs. 100 crore defamation suit.
The court further restrained them from publishing further defamatory content.
Justice Riyaz Chagla disposed of the interim application filed by SII and Adar Poonawala against social media influencer Yohan Tengra and one Ambar Kori.
"Having considered the contents, the statements are prima facie defamatory...there is no justification," it said.
The plaintiffs alleged that defendants had posted a series of videos defamatory posts, articles and videos against Poonawalla regarding the adverse effects of Covishield vaccine. It therefore sought a permanent injunction and apology from the duo.
"People who are responsible for saving four million lives are now being branded as mass murderers. You may have your views but you can't publish it in this manner," Senior Advocate Aspi Chinoy instructed by Parinam Law Associates had argued.
As per official data, 12 deaths have been allegedly reported after two crore nineteen lakh vaccines of Covishield being administered. Chinoy argued that the benefits of the vaccine far outweighed the possible adverse effects.
It was further submitted that after examining the AEFI data, the MoHFW issued an advisory which stated that there was only a miniscule but definitive risk of thromboembolic events and that the reporting rate was around 0.61/million doses.
Chinoy pointed out that the defamatory statements were made by the defendant Yohan Tengra on his YouTube channel. He submitted that a petitions filed in the Bombay HC by a Pune doctor who lost his daughter, another in the Supreme Court and two others filed in the Kerala HC were being used by the defendants to start a “smear campaign.”
The defamatory content was also read out wherein the plaintiffs were referred to as ‘murderers’ and ‘criminals.’ He had submitted that no adverse orders were passed in any of the petitions.
Reckless independent statements were made on social media, he said.
Advocate Nilesh Ojha and Abhishek Mishra for the defendants said that his clients were taking the defense of truth. Moreover, he had filed two counter applications alleging concealment in the suit.
Ojha claimed that according to a study, the vaccine increased the risk of death and cancer. “Because of 1 death (by the vaccine), 21 countries in Europe banned the product and here my friend wants to glorify it,” he had argued.
In response to Justice Chagla’s remark that the vaccine was administered voluntarily, Ojha said that the Maharashtra Government mandated vaccines for citizens for local train travel. Ojha argued that SII completely distanced itself when the doctor from Pune kept asking the company for medication before his daughter lost her life.
Advocate Changez Keswani for Google LLC argued that it couldn’t proactively monitor YouTube and would require a court order to adjudicate the videos as being defamatory and in the first instance direct the authors to take down the videos. It is only on their failure to withdraw the videos that a specific list of URLS containing the defamatory videos should be directed to be taken down by Google LLC.
Case Title: Serum Institute of India vs Yohan Tengra [SUIT (L) NO. 33253 OF 2022]
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 267
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