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Delhi High Court Orders Aniruddha Malpani To Take Down Prima Facie Defamatory Tweets Against Coding Unicorn WhiteHat Jr

Shreya Agarwal
24 Nov 2020 2:40 PM GMT
Delhi High Court Orders Aniruddha Malpani To Take Down Prima Facie Defamatory Tweets Against Coding Unicorn WhiteHat Jr
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A day after ordering in favour of WhiteHatJr in its defamation suit against Pradeep Poonia, the Delhi High Court today ordered yet another Twitter user, Aniruddha Malpani to take down some specific 'deprecatory, defamatory' tweets against WhiteHat Jr – a platform teaching coding to children. The court issued notice and summons on WhiteHat's plea and posted the matter for further...

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A day after ordering in favour of WhiteHatJr in its defamation suit against Pradeep Poonia, the Delhi High Court today ordered yet another Twitter user, Aniruddha Malpani to take down some specific 'deprecatory, defamatory' tweets against WhiteHat Jr – a platform teaching coding to children. The court issued notice and summons on WhiteHat's plea and posted the matter for further hearing on January 14, 2021.

The case was similar in its allegations against WhiteHat insofar as the allegations of defamation and trademark infringement were involved – a fact which was also noted by the Single Judge bench of Justice Mukta Gupta, however, Sr.Adv. Kishan Kaul and Adv. Majumdar appearing for WhiteHatJr claimed that it differed from Poonia's matter as these tweets were made by Malpani who also ran the angel-investing venture Malpani Ventures and was a regular investor in educational start-ups.

Besides contending that Malpani's tweets were scurrilous, disparaging, discouraging against WhiteHat Jr's business model, content and teachers, which WhiteHat's lead counsel Kaul likened to a "bull on a run", its counsel Adv. Rajshekhar Rao also stated that Malpani's business model ran on exactly the same lines for which he was criticizing WhiteHat Jr.

Justice Mukta Gupta observed that the trend of disparaging tweets and posts on social media was across sectors, "It's not just for business models. It's for everything." She added that though one needs to discourage it, "Every time it comes up Article 19(1)(a) (of the Constitution guaranteeing) freedom to speech and expression is brought up."

Kaul responded by saying that there "is a laxman rekha of fair reporting" and that there's "a difference between what is of interest to public and public interest." He pressed that some of Malpani's statements were per se defamatory and asked, "By any stretch of imagination, are the cases we dealing with fair comment?"

Kaul, assisted by Advocates Majumdar and Rao, elaborated on specific tweets in which Malpani had called WhiteHat Jr, "liar, cheater, pigs, slimy hypocrites, Raavan", associated the company with a convicted person, accused it of cheating "the parents of poorly informed students," and claimed that WhiteHat Jr was "shameless" and had "stolen from code.org" - an organization WhiteHat Jr claimed to have business interests with. He had further alleged that "WhiteHatJr hires people with 0 coding skills", in response to which WhiteHat Jr claimed to have a "rigorous selection process."

Showing WhiteHat Jr's solidarity with free speech, Kaul stated that when the company was criticized for its imaginary child (Wolf Gupta) advertisement – for which it received heavy flak from the public in general – it had taken it down. Kaul pressed that, "Reputation is equally a protected right" and is "a part of right to privacy."

In response, Adv. Bhargavan appearing for Malpani, stated that the tweets had been cherry-picked by WhiteHat Jr and were being used "out of context". He also claimed, on the same lines as Pradeep Poonia's Adv. Swathi Sukumar, that WhiteHat Jr infact was muzzling dissent.

On Bhargavan's mentioning of Malpani's educational credentials, Justice Gupta interjected and stated, "Even the most rustic illiterate people can be the most well-behaved. What is the point of stating all this? I deal with all kinds of people, they're all the same to me."

In response, Bhargavan stated that he had only mentioned them as the opposite side counsels had brought Malpani's credentials into question.

Bhargavan also stated on record that, while Malpani was an investor in health and educational start-ups, he had not invested any competitor's start up. Bhargavan also argued that so far as trademark infringement is concerned Bhargava is in on the point of jurisdiction, says so far as trademark infringement is concerned, the settled law beginning with Banyan Tree and finishing with Juggernaut Books, is that Delhi High Court does not have jurisdiction in this case.

Referring to Malpani's tweet offering to fund the legal fees of Poonia's fight against WhiteHat Jr, Bhargavan stated that, while "on one side there is a $12 bln behemoth," on the other side there are people like Malpani and Poonia, "who have just been picked up as examples."

Justice Gupta then stated that, "They don't have a problem with dissent, they have a problem with you calling them pigs, cheaters, etc"


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