A Metropolitan Court in Ahmedabad, on Monday, adjourned to 16 December the hearing in the criminal defamation case filed by BJP Chief Amit Shah's son Jay Shah against news portal The Wire. The hearing was adjourned after Mr. Shah sought an exemption from appearance on grounds of a social engagement.
While Mr. Shah did not show up, five from The Wire team appeared before the Court-- author of the article Ms. Rohini Singh, Managing Editor Monobina Gupta and Founding Editors of the news portal Mr. Siddarth Varadarajan, Mr. Sidharth Bhatia and Mr. M.K. Venu.
Additional Senior Civil Judge B.K. Dasondi of Ahmedabad rural court had earlier issued an ex-parte injunction against the news portal in respect of the article titled The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah published by The Wire on 8 October. The article had claimed that the company owned by Mr. Shah saw a rise in its turnover after the BJP came to power in 2014.
Challenging this article, Mr. Shah has alleged that the portal had published the article “in furtherance of their common intention to harm the reputation of the Complainant”. He had, in fact, called the article a “well-thought out, well-planned and well-executed conspiracy” and had contended that it is a “character assassination of the complainant without any verification, authenticity and/or even reasonable due diligence”.
Thereafter, questioning the intention of the article, he has submitted, “…the tenor of the defamatory article clearly suggests that the defamatory article has been made and published with a clear intention to defame the complainant by imputing that there has been a dramatic increase in the business of the complainant, not on account of the business acumen and capabilities of the complainant including other factors but because of extraneous reasons as indicated in the defamatory article. The defamatory article is also intended to create cheap publicity which is consequential to the defamatory statements contained in the defamatory article suggesting a drastic increase in turnover and drastic increase in revenue with a view to malign and lower the reputation of the complainant.”
Appeals challenging 'Gag Order'
Two separate Appeals have been filed before the Gujarat High Court, challenging Civil Judge Dasondi's order barring the news website from publishing any content “directly or indirectly” about Mr. Shah till the defamation suit filed against the website is disposed of.
One Appeal has been filed by Ms. Singh, while the other has been filed collectively by Mr. Varadarajan, Mr. Bhatia and Mr. Venu, and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, the non-profit company that publishes The Wire.
The Appeals allege that the impugned order reflects "total non application of mind and absolute failure to adhere to well settled principles for grant of injunction".
They rely on Article 19, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression, to include freedom of press. They then assert that the impugned article is wholly factual and is based on official records obtained from the Registrar of Companies. They further highlight the fact that the order did not attempt to assess the truth or justifiability of the publication. The article, they therefore contend, cannot amount to defamation and should instead be viewed as fair comment on verified facts.