30 Aug 2023 5:46 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court has granted a permanent injunction against venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy over an article he authored for Outlook Business Magazine against Singapore-based startup Zilingo Pte’s former CEO Ankiti Bose. Bose who was sacked from Zilingo over alleged financial irregularities last year, was granted relief in the defamation suit she filed against Murthy and Outlook. She...
The Bombay High Court has granted a permanent injunction against venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy over an article he authored for Outlook Business Magazine against Singapore-based startup Zilingo Pte’s former CEO Ankiti Bose.
Bose who was sacked from Zilingo over alleged financial irregularities last year, was granted relief in the defamation suit she filed against Murthy and Outlook. She was however not named in the article.
Justice SM Modak noted that while it may be true that Bose wasn’t specifically named in the article, the defendants took a dual stand in their affidavit in reply.
"Even though it may be true that the name of the present plaintiff is not referred in the article, it is also true that in the affidavit-in-reply they have taken two stands. On one hand they admit the status of the Applicant as co-founder, whereas, on the other hand, they say that the article does not indicate the present Plaintiff. If the plaintiff is only female co-founder of that fashion portal and even the Defendant No. 1 has admitted it, I think, the Plaintiff has made out the case for grant of interim reliefs."
The Single Judge thus held the article to be prima facie tortious and defamatory and injuncted Muthy and Outlook from publishing defamatory content against Bose.
The Court added that when in the affidavit-in-reply, the status of the plaintiff is admitted, the defendant cannot escape by merely pleading that the article does not refer to the plaintiff.
It added, “It is not the stand taken by the defendant no. 1 that he has done it bonafidely and in the public interest.”
Bose co-founded the e-commerce start-up Zilingo and was sacked after an investigation led by an independent forensics firm into complaints of serious financial irregularities, the company said in a statement.
In March 2023, Outlook Business Magazine published an article authored by Mahesh Murthy under the caption ‘Vulture Capital to Victim Capital.’ Bose approached the HC in April against Murthy and Outlook. She filed a defamation suit and sought a permanent injunction against them.
Bose’s counsel Amir Arsiwala argued that there were several references to her in the story without actually naming her. Zilingo was mentioned in the article. In the same article, a certain portion is written under the caption “The Founders’ Flounders”. Under this caption, Murthy has referred to a person who illegally takes out money, and to a lady who runs a popular fashion portal and took Sequoia’s money. “Further there is a reference to why that lady has transferred the funds and why she has improved her profile as a glamorous CEO type.”
These statements indicate Murthy was referring to Bose, her counsel claimed.
At the outset the defendants claimed that Bose’s name wasn’t mentioned therefore it couldn’t be inferred they were referring to her. Why was she offended by acts ascribed to an unnamed person, they argued.
The court observed there was a reference to Zilingo, a lady who runs that popular fashion portal and indicated that whatever illegal spending is done, it is by the lady. The court further noted the defendant’s acceptance of Bose’s relationship as the founder of the fashion portal.
While on one hand, the defendants claimed that Bose wasn’t named, on the other hand, they accepted her status as the co-founder, the court observed.
Thus, it was found that the plaintiff had made her case.
"If this article will continue to appear in the media, certainly, it is going to affect the image of the Plaintiff,” the bench said while granting injunction.
Case Number: SUIT NO. 242 OF 2023
Case Title: Ankiti Bose Vs. Mahesh Murthy and Anr
Appearance: Advs Amir Arsiwala a/w Monika Tanna and Dhara Modi i/by Singhania Legal Services for plaintiff
Adv Rama Subramania for defendants
Click Here To Read/Download Order