Delhi HC Refuses To Restrain India TV Journalist From Joining Rival News Channel
The Delhi High Court has dismissed an injunction application filed by Independent News Service Pvt Ltd (INSPL), to restrain Sucherita Kukreti, its channel India TV's newsreader, from joining any rival television channel till November 30, 2019.
Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw observed, "Granting any interim injunction would amount to restraining the defendant from doing what she has been doing for the last 14 years and what she is best known to do and has skill to do.
Ad-interim injunction if granted for the period till 30th November, 2019, would amount to killing the goodwill acquired by the defendant in the last 14 years and which loss cannot be monetarily compensated to the defendant in the event of it being ultimately found in the suit that the plaintiff was not entitled to such injunction."
Ms. Kukreti resigned from India TV on December 13, 2018, even though the term of her job contract ended only in November this year. She had been entering into successive contracts of three years each with India TV since December 1, 2004, agreeing not to associate with a competing channel during the term of the agreement. However, she had declared on Twitter on January 20 that she had joined Republic Bharat.
India TV then approached Delhi High Court on January 25, demanding that she be restrained from taking up work or allowing her name, image or voice for any other news channel till the expiry of her employment contract.
India TV contended that she was a prominent face of their news channel, which had invested huge money and resources in building her "image, reputation and goodwill" over the past 14 years. It has further sought recovery of damages amounting to Rs 2,00,10,000 from Ms. Kukreti for breach of the job agreement.
The court, however, emphasised on the damage that such an injunction would cause to Ms. Kukreti's career, observing, "Benching a professional for as long as 10 to 11 months can be devastating, capable of inflicting permanent damage affecting mental and physical health and future prospects of a professional. This is more so in the case of Newscasters / News Presenter to whom the adage "out of sight out of mind" would also apply."
It went on to hold that an injunction would constitute violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, as the right to personal liberty includes the liberty to practice any profession.
"The ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution of India ensuring Protection of Life and Personal Liberty to all persons has over the years been expanding. Personal Liberty would include liberty to practice a vocation or profession and being not deprived thereof, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary and which agreement Section 27 of the Contract Act declares as void. Grant of any ad- interim injunction would also be in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India," it explained.
The court also relied on Article 51A of the Constitution of India, which spells out the duty of every citizen to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievements. Ms. Kukreti, it then asserted, cannot be restrained from striving towards individual excellence in the profession/vocation of her choice.
Besides, the court opined that the loss from Ms. Kukreti's breach of contract can definitely be measured in monetary terms. As for the skill and excellence acquired by her, it ruled that the same is her personal acquisition and that India TV cannot have proprietary rights or interest in such acquisition of excellence by her, even if it was with the channel's contribution.
The application was, therefore, dismissed. The matter has been listed on July 11, 2019 for framing of issues, if any.