12 Jan 2023 12:33 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court has ruled that a plaintiff is bound to establish a prima facie case of falsehood or slander in the content of any publication or broadcast while seeking ad interim injunction.Observing that fundamental principles which govern the grant of ad interim injunction assume greater significance when a pre-publication or broadcast injunction is sought, Justice Yashwant...
The Delhi High Court has ruled that a plaintiff is bound to establish a prima facie case of falsehood or slander in the content of any publication or broadcast while seeking ad interim injunction.
Observing that fundamental principles which govern the grant of ad interim injunction assume greater significance when a pre-publication or broadcast injunction is sought, Justice Yashwant Varma said:
“…..it is imperative that the plaintiff be held to be bound and obliged to establish a strong prima facie case as a critical and essential pre-condition. Secondly, such a plaintiff must be held bound to establish that what is about to be published or broadcast is fundamentally removed from the truth, denigratory or slanderous. In the absence of the aforesaid tests being met, an injunction would justifiably be refused.”
The court observed that a pre-publication or broadcast injunction would essentially be sought at a stage when the offending material is either unavailable to be comprehensively assessed or where it is alleged that there is an immediate, grave and imminent possibility of violation of rights of an individual.
Justice Varma said that in such a situation, the promptitude with which the plaintiff approaches the court has to be seen, clubbed with the obligation to establish that the publication or broadcast in question is “completely divorced from the truth, replete with falsehood, or evidences an imminent vilification of the individual.”
The court added that if the court finds that the plaintiff has either failed to initiate action with promptitude or did not approach the court at the first available opportunity, “that would be a circumstance which would weigh heavily against the grant of an ad interim injunction.”
It also observed that where the court finds that the material already exists in public domain and has existed for a considerable period of time without an objection being raised, such a situation too would “detract from the right of the plaintiff to seek ad interim injunctive relief.”
“On a more fundamental plane, the Court would also take into consideration the imperatives of striking a balance between the aspects of freedom of speech and expression, the dissemination of information amongst the public at large on the one hand and the injury likely to be caused to the individual. It is in the above context that courts have formulated the “high pedestal” test when it comes to the grant of a pre-publication or broadcast injunction,” the court said.
Justice Varma said that courts have deliberately formulated the high threshold test as the injunction would essentially be sought at a stage when the offending material is either not available to be examined or where it is impracticable to arrive at even a prima facie conclusion as to whether the content is defamatory or libellous.
“Courts at that stage are essentially left to grapple at straws, called to base their decisions on unsubstantiated and unproven allegations and essentially asked to issue a restraint on the assumption that what would be published or broadcast would be defamatory, slanderous or amounting to libel. Such a tenuous approach cannot possibly be countenanced when a court of law is called upon to grant injunctive or equitable relief,” the court observed.
The court made the observations while rejecting a plea moved by real estate baron Sushil Ansal seeking an ad interim stay on the release of upcoming Netflix series ‘Trial By Fire' which is based on the Uphaar fire tragedy. The series is scheduled to be released on January 13.
The court refused to grant interim relief to Ansal in his suit which seeks permanent and mandatory injunction against the series and a restraint of further publication and circulation of the book titled ‘Trial By Fire- The tragic tale of the Uphaar Tragedy’.
Detailed report can be read here.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal appeared for Sushil Ansal.
Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi appeared for Endemol India Private Limited, Senior Advocates Rajiv Nayar and Amit Sibal appeared for Netflix. Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa represented Krishnamoorthys and Advocate Vrinda Bhandari appeared for Penguin.
Title: Sushil Ansal v. ENDEMOL INDIA PVT. LTD. & ORS.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 31
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