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Mint Newspaper Article: Delhi High Court Asks YouTuber Gaurav Taneja To Remove Tweets Naming & Tagging Journalist Shephali Bhatt

Nupur Thapliyal
5 Aug 2022 6:49 AM GMT
Mint Newspaper Article: Delhi High Court Asks YouTuber Gaurav Taneja To Remove Tweets Naming & Tagging Journalist Shephali Bhatt
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The Delhi High Court on Friday asked YouTuber Gaurav Taneja to remove the tweets made by him specifically naming and tagging Journalist Shephali Bhatt on the microblogging site Twitter.

Days after Justice Amit Bansal granted ad-interim relief to Taneja directing Mint Newspaper to take down an allegedly defamatory article published against him under Bhatt's byline, the journalist moved an application alleging that she was facing threats from Taneja's social media followers after he posted tweets regarding the suit proceedings despite the same being sub-judice.

During the course of hearing today, Bhatt's counsel took the Court through various tweets posted by Taneja wherein his followers, apart from making thousands of abusive posts, were also posting hashtags against her.

Advocate Raghav Awasthi appearing for Taneja undertook before the Court that he would remove all the tweets where Bhatt was named or tagged by him and also that he will not make any further post naming or tagging her.

Bhatt's counsel argued that Taneja's 'ability to report about judicial proceedings' on Twitter having lakhs of followers was harming her life and liberty.

"My very ability to exist on a public space is endangered," her counsel submitted.

At the outset, Justice Bansal orally remarked "If a hate campaign is going on against her, that is not acceptable."

"I will tell him that he will not tag you or name you. It's no personal vendetta. The matter is sub judice….whatever injunction he has got in his favour, the matter is still sub judice."

During the course of hearing, Taneja's counsel Raghav Awasthi said that since the updates of judicial proceedings are posted by legal news portals like Live Law & Bar and Bench, such portals must also be restrained from posting anything about the suit proceedings.

Declining Awasthi's prayer to pass a gag order against the media portals, Justice Bansal said:

"I cannot pass a gag order against the media. They are not party here. No gag order has been passed against you but do not invite comments."

Thereafter, the counsel appearing for Twitter informed the Court that expeditious efforts will be made to remove the offensive posts in accordance with the Twitter policy.

Seeking reply in the application within two weeks, the Court also granted liberty to Taneja to repost the contents of tweets without naming or tagging Bhatt, adding that the tweets shall be closed for comments and retweets.

Journalist Bhatt was represented by Advocates Swathi Sukumar and Naveen Nagarjuna.

The article in question titled "Shouldn't brands stop supporting sordid influencers?" was published after Taneja had posted a picture on Twitter wherein he was seen performing havan as per the Hindu rites. "Hinduism is a science based way of life. On 3 dec 1984, two families remained unaffected from Bhopal gas leak. They performed regular (हवन ), which is a natural antidote to pollution", Taneja had tweeted.

The tweet led to polarised debates in social media. A columnist named Abhishek Baxi quote tweeted Taneja's tweet by tagging certain brands asking them why were they associating with him.

Later, the article in Mint written by columnist Shephali Bhatt was published, which raised allegations of misogyny, child abuse etc., against Taneja after referring to certain videos posted by him, one of which showed him piercing the ears of his daughter.

On July 27, the Court had granted ad interim injunction in favour of Taneja observing that piercing the ears of a girl child cannot be termed as child abuse and that allegations of child abuse are serious allegations which cannot be made without due care and verification.

The Court had directed Mint to take down the article and restrained the author Shephali Bhatt and editor-chief Shruthijith KK from posting circulating or publishing the article. The Court had also directed Abhishek Baxi to take down the tweet against Taneja, taking exception to words like "bewakoof" and "idiocy" used by him.

Taneja's plea for injunction was rejected by a Delhi Court in June after which he had approached the High Court, claiming that the article had caused immense damage to his reputation with the sponsors. He had submitted that defamatory material was causing professional loss to him.

Case Title: KAIRAVIVIEW (OPC) PVT. LTD. & ORS. v. HINDUSTAN TIMES/ MINT & ORS.

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