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RS Polls | Baseless Allegations That Voting Strategy Of An Individual/ Party Is Sold Off Damages Reputation, Encroaches Right To Privacy: Delhi HC

Nupur Thapliyal
16 Jun 2022 7:53 AM GMT
RS Polls | Baseless Allegations That Voting Strategy Of An Individual/ Party Is Sold Off Damages Reputation, Encroaches Right To Privacy: Delhi HC
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The Delhi High Court has observed that alleging that the voting strategy of an individual or of a political party or their nominees has been sold off without any foundational basis, deeply causes irreparable harm, loss and damage to the reputation of such an individual or party concerned and clearly encroaches upon the right of privacy.Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta also added that...

The Delhi High Court has observed that alleging that the voting strategy of an individual or of a political party or their nominees has been sold off without any foundational basis, deeply causes irreparable harm, loss and damage to the reputation of such an individual or party concerned and clearly encroaches upon the right of privacy.

Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta also added that while reputation is an integral part of the dignity of each individual, there is a need for balance between the freedom of speech and expression vis-à-vis the right to reputation.

"The defamation per se is also an offence and has been dealt in Sections 499 & 500 of IPC. Thus, the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India cannot be extended to intentional hurt to any other person's reputation, though imputation of truth which public good requires to be made or published, is considered as a valid defence against defamation," the Court said.

It added, "The voting strategy of an individual or of a political party or their nominees is purely based upon the ideology and policy of the political party or an individual, and alleging that the same had been sold off, without any foundational basis, deeply causes an irreparable harm, loss and damage to the reputation of the individual/party concerned and clearly encroaches the right of privacy."

The Court made the following observations while restraining Vinay Mishra, Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Dwarka and Election In-Charge for the State of Rajasthan for the said party, from publishing or circulating any defamatory statements in relation to the tweets made against Rashtriya Loktantrik MP Hanuman Beniwal and other party leaders without any clear and cogent evidence. The tweets in question related to the Rajya Sabha polls.

As per the case of the plaintiffs, since Rajya Sabha elections were scheduled on 10.06.2022, the RLP along with its office bearers took the decision to vote in favour of an independent candidate Subhash Chandra. After a tweet was posted by Beniwal, Mishra quoted the same tweet and started an alleged malicious campaign against the plaintiffs.

According to the plaintiffs, the defendants were doing the same with an intent to prejudice, damage and cause loss of name, reputation and credibility of the plaintiffs. It was also plaintiff's case that Mishra deliberately morphed and used fictitious images and without any justification made defamatory statements against the plaintiffs.

It was further the case of the plaintiffs' that defendants got a news circulated in the media on various dates which was published related to the said tweets.

It was thus argued on behalf of the plaintiffs submits that allegations made by Mishra were without any foundation and published false, fake, malicious posts on social media tarnishing the image and reputation of the plaintiffs with an intent to injure and spoil the reputation of the plaintiffs and cause hatred amongst the people of Rajasthan by tweets.

The Court was of the view that while each citizen has a right to express his sentiments except to the extent permitted under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, it is manifest that the rights conferred by Article 19(1)(a) are subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the public or decency or morality or in relation to defamation or incitement of an offence.

"This freedom needs to be exercised with circumspection and care and cannot be permitted to violate the rights of other citizens and to jeopardize their public interest. More so, in case of political functionaries, who spend their lifetime for building their image in the public, the same cannot be permitted to be tumbled by baseless, defamatory statements by any political entity/individual for petty gains," it said.

The Court was of the view that the tweets in question prima facie were libellous statement made by Mishra and were per se defamatory.

"The same appear to be reckless in the absence of any supporting material reflected in the aforesaid tweets and are completely in disregard of the right to reputation of the plaintiffs guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India," the Court said.

It was further observed that if the same are permitted to continue on record, it will further blemish or blot the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiffs and may cause a misimpression in the trust of the voters or supporters of the party or common citizens of the country in the absence of any cogent evidence.

"It cannot be ruled out that the tweets may have been actuated by malice with an attempt to impact the Rajya Sabha elections which were scheduled for 10th June, 2022 and to cause loss of reputation to the plaintiffs, which may have been built by sheer dedication and hard work over a long period of time," it added.

Thus, the Court also directed Twitter to immediately mask, block or suspend 13 tweets in question.

The matter will now be heard on August 18.

Case Title: HANUMAN BENIWAL AND ORS. v. VINAY MISHRA AND ORS.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 572

Click Here To Read Order 


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