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G.K. Mani, President & Others v/s New Generation Media Corporation (P) Ltd., Rep. by its Managing Director & Others

    Original Application No. 272 of 2019 & Application Nos. 2187, 2188 of 2019 in CS No. 198 of 2019

    Decided On, 08 April 2019

    At, High Court of Judicature at Madras

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE R. SUBRAMANIAN

    For the Appearing Parties: N. L. Rajah, Ar. L. Sunderasan, T.V. Ramanujam, Senior Counsels, M/s. K. Balu, Dr. Venkatesan, B. Saraswathi, Advocates.



Judgment Text

(Prayer: Original Application is filed under Order XIV Rule 8 of the Original Side Rules read with Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, praying to

(i) grant an order of ad-interim injunction, restraining the respondents their agents, servants, men and anybody claiming under them and acting on their behalf from, in any way, publishing/telecasting news items or daily debates, caricature of the Applicant party leaders or publishing/telecasting any news item/article touching upon Applicant party and its leaders, containing false and defamatory allegations in “Tuthiyathalaimurai TV Channel” or in any other form or in any other mode or manner whatsoever, pending disposal of the above suit.

Applications are filed under Order XIV Rule 8 of the Original Side Rules read with Order XXXIX Rule 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure read with 151 of C.P.C, and Section 94 and 151 of C.P.C., praying to

(i) vacate the order of interim injunction granted in O.A.No.272 of 2019 in C.S.No.198 of 2019 dated 15.03.2019.

(ii) vacate the exparte order of interim injunction passed in O.A.No.272 of 2019 in C.S.No.198 of 2019 dated 15.03.2019)Common Order

1. The plaintiff, who is the President of a registered Political Party has filed the above suit seeking permanent injunction restraining the defendants from in any way publishing/telecasting news items or daily debates, caricatures of the plaintiff's party leaders or publishing/telecasting any news item/article touching upon the plaintiff’s party and its leaders containing false and defamatory allegations in Puthiyathalaimurai Television Channel run by the 1st respondent. Pending the said suit, the plaintiff has sought for a temporary injunction for the same reliefs.

2. According to the plaintiff, he is the president of the Pattali Makkal Katchi which is registered political party. The founder of Pattali Makkal Katchi is one Dr.S.Ramadoss and his son Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss is the Youth Wing Leader of the said party. It is the case of the plaintiffs that the party was found with the aim and objective to eradicate property, to provide free education for children, to eradicate corruption and restore social justice. It is also contended that the Pattali Makkal Katchi is fighting for total prohibition of liquor in the State of Tamil Nadu.

3. The plaintiff would further allege that the 3rd defendant is the founder leader of the India Jananayaka Katchi and is also the founder of the 1st respondent which is running a Television Channel in the name of Pudhiyathalaimurai Television. The 2nd respondent who is the son of the 3rd respondent happens to be the Managing Director of the 1st respondent Company. The 3rd respondent is also the founder of SRM University which runs a group of Educational Institutions including a Medical College. During June 2016, there were several allegations against the institutions run by the 3rd respondent and parents of the affected students approached the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party Dr.S.Ramadoss. In order to espouse the grievances of the parents, it appears that the founder leader Dr.S.Ramadoss had issued a statement on 22.06.2016 demanding the Government to take action against the 3rd respondent’s institution and also sought for CBI Investigation on the affairs of the institutions. This demand made by the founder leader of the Plaintiff’s party led to the 3rd respondent being arrested and subsequently the entire money collected from the students was paid back and the Criminal proceedings were closed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. This according to the plaintiff led to the serious misunderstanding between the leaders of the plaintiff’s party, the 3rd respondent and the 2nd respondent who also happens to hold an important post in the University namely, SRM University, run by the 3rd respondent

4. In view of the fact that the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party was responsible for the investigation being speeded up the 2nd and 3rd respondents nurture malice against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders including the founder leader Dr.S.Ramadoss. This led to a vilification campaign being carried out by the 2nd and 3rd respondents using the media namely, Puthiyathalaimurai Television Channel run by the 1st respondent. It is also claimed that right from the date on which the allegations against the University belonging to the 2nd and 3rd respondents were made by the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party, the plaintiff’s party and its leaders were totally blacked out by the Television channel run by the respondents. However, in the recent past, particularly after the plaintiff’s party forged an alliance with ruling parties in the Centre and the State, the respondents have started a campaign with sole aim of maligning the plaintiff’s party and its leaders. The political debates, called “TAMIL” are being used to air defamatory and false allegations against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders, the 1st respondent which runs the television channel invites known political opponents of the plaintiff’s party and induces them by providing a platform to air defamatory and false allegations against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders.

5. This according to the plaintiff is likely to cause irreparable damage to the reputation of the plaintiff’s party and its leaders apart from having a huge impact on the fortunes of the plaintiff’s party in the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections. The plaintiff would further allege that the fact that the 3rd respondent has been giving out interviews in various news channels as well as social media websites making wild and false allegations against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders would demonstrate that the 3rd respondent is nurturing personal vendata and malice against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders.

6. Pointing out the some of the interviews particularly where the 3rd respondent had made allegations of corruption against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders and had sought to explain his silence for several years by stating that they were friendly with him and hence he did not choose to expose their actions, the plaintiff would contend that this conduct of the 3rd respondent would definitely strengthen the apprehension of the plaintiff’s party and its leaders that the 3rd respondent is out to malign and defame the leaders of the plaintiff’s party at any cost. The Television Channel namely, Puthiyathalaimurai Television run by the 1st respondent is used by the respondents 2 and 3 for their malicious campaign. Therefore, the plaintiff would seek an order of temporary injunction restraining the respondents from publishing or telecasting any interview either defaming or maligning the leaders of the plaintiff’s party.

7. The respondents have filed separate counters. A common counter affidavit has been filed by the 1st and 2nd respondents and the 3rd respondent has filed a separate counter affidavit. An application to vacate the order of interim injunction and also been filed in Application No.2187 of 2019.

8. In the counter affidavit filed by the 2nd respondent on behalf of the 1st and 2nd respondents, it is contended as follows:

9. The primary contention of the respondents 1 and 2 is that the 3rd respondent has nothing to do with them. The Puthiyathalaimurai Television Channel, according to them, is not run by the SRM Group of Institutions or the 3rd respondent. According to the 2nd respondent, the Television Channel is an independent Company which has nothing to do with the SRM Institutions or the 3rd respondent. Similarly, the political party namely, India Jananayaka Katchi has also nothing to do with the Puthiyathalaimurai Television. According to them, the plaintiff has used the fact that the 2nd respondent happen to be the son of the 3rd respondent to his own advantage to make it appear that the 1st respondent as well as the 2nd respondent are under the control of the 3rd respondent. As regards the programmes telecast by the 1st respondent in the Puthiyathalaimurai Television, the 2nd respondent would contend that though he is the Managing Director of the Company running the Television Channel, he has nothing to do with the day-to-day affairs of the channel. The day-to-day affairs particularly, the matters relating to news and interviews are managed by the Managing Editor of the Channel and he is the one who controls the news inasmuch as the channel is a 24 hours news channel. The invitees for debates are also decided by the Managing Editor and the editorial committee and the 2nd respondent has nothing to do with the day-to-day administration or the content of the programmes published by the channel.

10. While refuting the claim of the plaintiff that the leaders of the plaintiff’s party were actually blacked out by the 1st respondent, it is stated that the news channel covered the agitation conducted by Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss, the youth wing leader of the plaintiff’s party near the Prime Minister’s residence at New Delhi. It is also claimed that the Puthiyathalaimurai Television has got a reputation of being a neutral Channel and it is a popular news channel in Tamil Nadu. It is the further contention of the defendants that when there are debates on political issues persons connected with the topic are invited and they are allowed to express their views. If some of the invitees had spoken ill of the plaintiff’s party or its leaders, the channel cannot be held responsible for the statements made by such political opponents of the plaintiff and its party.

11. It is also claimed that the suit filed by the plaintiff in its individual capacity is not maintainable. It is the further claim of the respondents that the injunction sought for, if granted would amount to a gag order which cannot be granted as the same will be in violation of the right to free speech guaranteed by Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

12. The 3rd respondent has filed a separate counter, the 3rd respondent would contend that he has nothing to do with Television Channel namely, the Pudhiyathalaimurai Television Channel. It is also his contention that he is controlling the news channel and the contents of the programme are being monitored by him. Terming the allegations regarding registration of Criminal cases against him as stemming out of personal vendata, the 3rd respondent would claim that those allegations are wholly irrelevant. According to him, the events that happened in 2016 are sought to be resurrected by the plaintiff only with a view to malign with the 3rd respondent and his political party namely the India Jananayaka Katchi.

13. It is the further contention of the 3rd respondent that as a media, the 1st respondent is entitled to publish views of various political leaders particularly during the election season and hence any gag order made will not be in the interest of the nation as the people of the nation are entitled to know about the political leaders and their background. It is also contended that it is the duty of the media to bring out news about different political leaders. Referring to the debate that was telecast on 02.03.2019, it is contended by the 3rd respondent that the views of Mr.Velmurugan cannot be attributed to the channel and at best they amount to fair comments. It is also claimed that the statements made by the leader of the Viduthalai Chruthaikal Katchi Mr.Thol Thirumavalavan, are also his personal views and they have been uploaded on the social media by the 1st respondent which the 1st respondent is entitled to as a media house. It is also claimed that neither Mr.Velmurugan nor Mr. Thol Thirumavalavan have been made parties to the present suit purposely and the plaintiffs seek to attack only to the respondents because of their personal animosity against the 3rd respondent. On the above contentions, the respondents seek vacation of the interim orders and dismissal of the original application in OA No.272 of 2019.

14. I have heard Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the plaintiff, Mr.AR.L.Sunderasan, learned Senior Counsel appearing for Dr.Venkatesan, for respondents 1 and 2 and Mr.T.V.Ramanujam, learned Senior Counsel appearing for Mrs.B.Saraswathi, for the 3rd respondent.

15. While elaborating on the contentions of the plaintiff Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the plaintiff would strenuously contend that the right to free speech is not an absolute or untrammeled right. According to him, the right to free speech can be subject to the reasonable restrictions. In a civilised society, nobody can claim an absolute right to malign or defame a political opponent or others. Citing malice on the part of the 3rd respondent, Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would contend that the respondents 2 and 3, who happened to be father and son have a controlling Authority over the 1st respondent and the television channel run by it. Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would also point out that the claim of the respondents that the 1st respondent is an independent entity and the 3rd respondent has nothing to do with the said entity is based on the statutory status of the 1st respondent and not the actual position.

16. Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would also point out that the 2nd respondent holds a responsible position in the SRM University and the SRM Institutions run by the 3rd respondent. The 2nd respondent also happens to be the son of the 3rd respondent. The 2nd respondent is the Managing Director of the 1st respondent Company which runs the Pudhiyathalaimurai Television Channel. Citing the above relationships Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would contend that the claim of the respondents that these institutions are totally independent of each other cannot be countenanced. It is his further contention of that some of the interviews and statements made by the 3rd respondent would clearly demonstrate that the 3rd respondent has got personal animosity and he nurtures malice against the plaintiff’s party and its leader.

17. Drawing my attention to the contents of the press releases made by the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party Dr.S.Ramadoss dated 22.06.2016 and 30.07.2016, Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel, would contend that it was these press releases and the demands which led to the arrest of the 3rd respondent by the police. He would also submit that pursuant to the criminal cases that were launched, the 3rd respondent has repaid the entire amount claimed, by the students and their parents, to have been paid to an associate of the 3rd respondent, which led to the scrapping of the Criminal cases and quashing of the First Information Reports. Mr.N.L.Rajah, would strenuously argue that these instances led to the 3rd respondent harbouring a personal vendata against the plaintiff’s party and its founder leader. He would also rely upon the news item published in on-line news channel called “One India.com”, wherein the complaints made by the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party were published. He would also point out that the 3rd respondent was arrested in August 2016, based on the Criminal Prosecution launched after the disclosure that was made by the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party. While these events which led to the arrest of the 3rd respondent are shown as reasons for the 3rd respondent raising a banner of revolt against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders. The following interviews and statements made by the 3rd respondent and the news channel namely Pudhiyathalaimurai Television are projected as grounds for the prayer for injunction. It is claimed that on 26.02.2019, the Pudhiyathalaimurai Television Channel published a new item which claimed that the youth wing leader of the plaintiff’s party namely, Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss had abruptly cancelled the press meet after entering into arguments with the reporters.

18. According to Mr.N.L.Rajah, the said news item contained certain questions which are not asked by the reporters at the time of the press conference and the claim that Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss has cancelled the press conference abruptly and had left the place is also false. Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would draw my attention to the interview of the 3rd respondent published in another social media channel namely ‘News Glitz”, wherein according to him the 3rd respondent had made several defamatory statements against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders. The learned Senior Counsel would particularly rely upon the portions of the interview were the 3rd respondent calls the plaintiffs party as a bane for Tamil Nadu.

19. He would also draw my attention to the portions of the interview where the 3rd respondent has claimed that the plaintiffs party has no right to be in Tamil Nadu and it is a bane for the State. It is also pointed out that the 3rd respondent has spoken about certain functioning of the two of the Central Ministers belonging to the plaintiff’s party. Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would also draw my attention to the fact that the 3rd respondent had claimed that he was hurt by the actions of the founder leader of the plaintiff’s party in bringing out the financial irregularities that happened in the University and the effect of that will not change.

20. Relying upon the following statement attributed to the 3rd respondent in the said interview

“TAMIL”

“TAMIL”

Mr.N.L.Rajah, would submit that the above statement made by the 3rd respondent would categorically disclose that the 3rd respondent is out to defame the plaintiff’s party and its leaders. He would also draw my attention to the interview of the 3rd respondent published in Kumudham Reporter dated 05.03.2019, wherein the 3rd respondent had stated as follows:

“TAMIL”

21. Elaborating further Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would contend that while admitting that the Court cannot injunct a person from airing his views particularly on the political affairs, but at the same time, the Courts definitely have the power to restrain persons from airing abuse with malice and with an object of defaming the political opponents.

22. In order to buttress his submissions Mr.N.L.Rajah, would rely upon the following observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in R.Rajagopal alias R.R.Gopal and Another v. State of Tamil Nadu and Others, reported in AIR 1995 SC 264,

“26.(3). There is yet another exception to the rule in (1) above – indeed, this is not an exception but an independent rule. In the case of public officials, it is obvious, right to privacy, or for that matter, the remedy of action for damages is simply not available with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties. This is so even where the publication is based upon facts and statements which are not true, unless the official establishes that the publication was made (by the defendant) with reckless disregard for truth. In such a case, it would be enough for the defendant (member of the press or media) to prove that he acted after a reasonable verification of the facts; it is not necessary for him to prove that what he has written is true. Of course, where the publication is proved to be false and actuated by malice or personal animosity, the defendant would have no defence and would be liable for damages. It is equally obvious that in matters not relevant to the discharge of his duties, the public official enjoys the same protection as any other citizen, as explained in (1) and (2) above. It needs no reiteration that judiciary, which is protected by the power to punish for contempt of court and Parliament and legislature protected as their privileges are by Articles 105 and 104 respectively of the Constitution of India, represent exceptions to this rule.”

23. Relying upon the aforesaid observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, Mr.N.L.Rajah, would contend that if it is shown that allegations have been made out of malice, this Court can grant an order of injunction restraining publication of such allegations. He would also draw my attention to the judgment of mine in Ms.Kanimozhi Karunanidhi v. P.Varadarajan and others, reported in 2018 (3) CTC 710, wherein I had considered the effect of such publications being made on the right to privacy of the individual concerned. I had also referred to the concluding remarks of the Hon’ble Mr.Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, which read as follows:

“Let the right of privacy, an inherent right, be unequivocally a fundamental right embedded in part-III of the Constitution of India but subject to the restrictions specified, relatable to that part. This is the call of today. The old order change yielding place to new.”

24. Reliance is also placed on the judgment of the Division Bench of this Court in R.Rajagopal @ R.R.Gopal @ Nakkheeran Gopal and others v. J.Jayalitha and another reported in 2006 (2) LW 377, wherein it has been observed as follows:

“Even assuming that the articles published by the appellants amount to character assassination of the respondents, there is no justification for granting a blanket injunction restraining the appellants from publishing any articles, in future. It would not be appropriate for us to examine the articles at this stage on the touchstone of defamation, but what we do observe is that they ae not of such a nature warranting a restraint order especially when the appellants are willing to face the consequences in a trial in case the same are held to be defamatory and the plea of the appellants of truth is yet to be analysed by the Court.”

“We agree with Mr.Jothi that the scrutiny of public figures by media should not also reach a stage where it amounts to harassment to the public figures and their family members and they must be permitted to live and lead their life in peace.”25. He would also draw my attention to the judgment of the learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court in Cadbury (India) Ltd. V. M.C.Saxena, reported in 83 (2000) DLT 592, wherein the Court has held that when defamatory imputations are being repeatedly published with ulterior motives for which no justification or defence is offered the Court would be justified in granting injunction. Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would also draw my attention to the Election Code of Conduct issued by the Election Commission, wherein certain commitments have been made by the intermediaries including Social Media platforms to deploy appropriate fact checkers which scan the fake news, abuse etc. He would also point out that social media platforms had been required to maintain strict vigil against inciting news items.

26. Contending contra, Mr.Ar.L.Sunderasan, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the respondents 1 and 2 would submit that the prayers sought for by the plaintiff actually amounts to an injunction restraining a possible defamation contending that when there is a possibility of the plaintiff obtaining a relief of damages by suing for defamation after the publication, the Court will not normally grant injunction. Mr.Ar.L.Sunderasan, would also point out that the plaintiff’s party and its leaders are political personalities and as such they should be open to criticism. He would also submit that the injunction sought for is so wide that it would cover even the political activities of the plaintiff’s party and its leaders.

27. It is the further contention of Mr.Ar.L.Sunderasan, learned Senior Counsel, that even the Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Justice K.S.Puttaswamy and Ors v. Union of India and Ors., reported in 2017 (6) MLJ 267, as well as the judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in R.Rajagopal alias R.R.Gopal and Another v. State of Tamil Nadu and Others, reported in AIR 1995 SC 264, and the judgment of mine in Ms.Kanimozhi Karunanidhi v. P.Varadarajan and others, reported in 2018 (3) CTC 710, make an exception regarding comments on political actions of political leaders and what has been prohibited is only publication of any matter relating to the private life of the political leaders. He would further submit that even the material produced by the plaintiffs in the typed set of papers by way of interviews and other publications would only show that all the comments therein are against the political actions and the political affairs of the plaintiff’s party and its leaders. Nothing personal has been said about them, therefore, the injunction sought for cannot be granted.

28. Mr.T.V.Ramanujam, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the 3rd respondent would substantially adopt the arguments of Mr.Ar.L.Sundaresan, and would add that the 1st respondent is a separate entity and the 3rd respondent has no control over the affairs of the 1st respondent. He would also submit that the 3rd respondent as the leader of the political party cannot be restrained by way of an injunction from pointing out the so called misleads of the leaders of the plaintiff’s party, during the Election campaign. Mr.T.V.Ramanujam, learned Senior Counsel would also submit that the very timing of the suit shows that it has been filed only with an object of thwarting criticism of the plaintiff’s party, its leaders, their policies and the ideologies.

29. Both Mr.Ar.L.Sunderasan and Mr.T.V.Ramanujam, would rely upon the off quoted judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in kartar Singh & Others. V. State of Punjab, reported in AIR 1956 SC 541, and the judgment of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Sardar Charanjit Singh v. Arun Purie and Others, reported in 1983 (4) DRJ 80, wherein the question of grant of injunction was considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

30. I have considered the rival submissions.

31. One and the only question that arises is as to whether the applicants would be entitled to seek an order of injunction restraining the respondents from publishing defamatory and false news or caricatures of the plaintiffs leaders in the news channel or in the social media. The above question again raises the issue of balancing of rights. While the plaintiff would contend that when their right to dignity is at peril because of the actions of the defendants in publishing false and defamatory news items with strong malice, the defendants would contend that as responsible media, the 1st respondent and the 2nd respondent are entitled to publish its own opinion or the opinion of other political leaders regarding actions of the plaintiff’s party and its leader. They would also base their right to publish on the right of the people to know about the actions of the political leaders. In such situations, the Court is often required to draw the Lakshman rekha and prescribe the limits within which the parties are allowed to express their views on others.

32. Of course the judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Justice K.S.Puttaswamy and Ors v. Union of India and Ors., reported in 2017 (6) MLJ 267, had made a significant inroad into otherwise absolute right of free speech by making the right to privacy as a fundamental right. At the same time, what is the extent of the power of the Court to issue an injunction restraining the press or visual media or social media from publishing either their own or the views of the others regarding the political actions of political leaders is still at large. There cannot be an absolute or blanket ban on publication of views of individuals about other political leaders. But at the same time, one has ensure that these views of individuals published do not venture in to or invade upon the right to privacy, which has now become a fundamental right. Of course, the respondents cannot be held responsible for the views expressed by the political leaders who are invited to take part in debates or interviews, but at the same time, the respondents also cannot provide a platform for known political opponents of the plaintiff’s party and its leaders to hurl abuses against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders and thereafter take a defence that whatever abuses have been hurled by the persons who participated in the interviews or debates are the personal views of those persons and therefore, the respondents cannot be held liable.

33. The remedy by way of action for defamation in such cases becomes a tooth less remedy. Even in kartar Singh’s case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had acknowledged that the slogans that were raised during the rally where certainly defamatory of the Transport Minister and the Chief Minister, Punjab. The Hon’ble Supreme Court, however, observed that public men in such positions may as well think it worth their while to ignore such vulgar criticism and abuses hurled against them rather than give importance to the same by prosecuting the persons who are responsible for the same. In Sardar Charanjit Singh’s case, a learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court after referring to kartar Singh’s case, held that injunction cannot be granted when the respondents seek to justify the publication.

34. In Tata Sons Limited v. Greenpeace International & Another, reported in 2011 SCC online Del 466, a learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court had considered the scope of the power of the Court regarding grant of injunction in matters relating to libel. That was a case where the plaintiff, namely Tata Sons Limited sought for injunction restraining Greenpeace International & Another, from putting on social media a online game titled “Turtle v. TATA”. Greenpeace International was carrying out a campaign against establishment of a Commercial Port namely, the Dhamra Port in Orissa on the ground that the construction of a Port would irretrievably damage the nesting grounds for Olive Ridley Sea Turtle in the area. In order to strengthen its campaign Greenpeace International launched a game called “Turtle v. TATA”, wherein TATA was depicted as a demon the game also used the trademark symbol 'T' of TATA Sons Limited and the demon was named “Ratty”, presumably after the then Chairman of the TATA group Mr.Ratan Tata. The complaint of the plaintiff in the said proceedings was that the Greenpeace International has launched the said game only with a view to defame Tata Sons Limited and its Chairman. In order to support the prayer of injunction, it was also claimed that the Damra Port Project has been cleared by all the agencies including the environmental agencies. It is seen from the report that the parties thereto had placed reliance on various judgments including the judgment in kartar Singh’s case, referred to supra, as well as the judgment in Kushwant vs. Menaka Gandhi, reported in AIR 2002 Del 58.

35. The learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court had followed the rule enunciated in Bonnard v. Perryman reported in 1891 (2) CH 269, which was again followed in Fraser v. Evans and others, reported in 1969 (1) QB 349, and concluded that interlocutory injunction cannot be granted in a libel action where the damages could be adequate relief. A Division Bench of this Court in R.Rajagopal @ R.R.Gopal @ Nakkheeran Gopal and others v. J.Jayalitha and another reported in 2006 (2) LW 377, had also followed the principles of law set out in Bonnard v. Perryman and Fraser v. Evans.

36. The sum and substance of the scope of the power of the Court to grant an order of injunction in matters relating to defamation have been set out by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in R.Rajagopal @ R.R.Gopal and another v. State of Tamil Nadu and Others reported in 1994 (6) SCC 632, the broad principles have been summarised as follows:

" (1) The right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It is a “right to be let alone”. A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, childbearing and education among other matters. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent _ whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages. Position may, however, be different, if a person voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily invites or raises a controversy.

(2) The rule aforesaid is subject to the exception, that any publication concerning the aforesaid aspects becomes unobjectionable if such publication is based upon public records including court records. This is for the reason that once a matter becomes a matter of public record, the right to privacy no longer subsists and it becomes a legitimate subject for comment by press and media among others. We are, however, of the opinion that in the interests of decency [Article 19(2)] an exception must be carved out to this rule, viz., a female who is the victim of a sexual assault, kidnap, abduction or a like offence should not further be subjected to the indignity of her name and the incident being publicised in press/media.

(3) There is yet another exception to the rule in (1) above _ indeed, this is not an exception but an independent rule. In the case of public officials, it is obvious, right to privacy, or for that matter, the remedy of action for damages is simply not available with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties. This is so even where the publication is based upon facts and statements which are not true, unless the official establishes that the publication was made (by the defendant) with reckless disregard for truth. In such a case, it would be enough for the defendant ( member of the press or media) to prove that he acted after a reasonable verification of the facts; it is not necessary for him to prove that what he has written is true. Of course, where the publication is proved to be false and actuated by malice or personal animosity, the defendant would have no defence and would be liable for damages. It is equally obvious that in matters not relevant to the discharge of his duties, the public official enjoys the same protection as any other citizen, as explained in (1) and (2) above. It needs no reiteration that judiciary, which is protected by the power to punish for contempt of court and Parliament and legislatures protected as their privileges are by Articles 105 and 104 respectively of the Constitution of India, represent exceptions to this rule.

(4) So far as the Government, local authority and other organs and institutions exercising governmental power are concerned, they cannot maintain a suit for damages for defaming them.

(5) Rules 3 and 4 do not, however, mean that Official Secrets Act, 1923, or any similar enactment or provision having the force of law does not bind the press or media.

(6) There is no law empowering the State or its officials to prohibit, or to impose a prior restraint upon the press/media.

37. The law laid down in Bonnard v. Perryman, relating to interim injunctions in actions for liberal is as follows:

“The right of free speech is one which it is for public interest that individuals should possess and, until it is clear that an alleged libel is untrue, it is not clear that any right at all has been infringed, and the importance of leaving free speech unfettered is a strong reason in cases of libel for dealing most cautiously and warily with the granting of interim injunctions..”

Subsequently in Fraser v. Evans and others, Lord Denning MR stated the law as follows:

“The Court will not restrain the publication of an article, even though it is defamatory when the defendant says he intends to justify it or to make fair comment on a matter of public interest”.

“That has been established for many years ever since Bonnard v. Perryman. The Reasons sometimes given that defences of justification and fair comment are for the jury which is the Constitutional Tribunal and not for a judge. For the better reason, it is important in the public interest that the truth should be out. There is no wrong done, if it is true or if it (alleged libel) is fair comment on a matter of public interest. The Court will not prejudice the issue by granting an injunction in advance of publication.” These principles laid down more than a century ago have been followed by the Division Bench of this Court in R.Rajagopal @ R.R.Gopal @ Nakkheeran Gopal and others v. J.Jayalalitha and another reported in 2006 (2) LW 377.

38. While following the law laid down in Bonnard’s case, referred supra, the Division Bench had pointed out that even assuming that the articles published by the appellants amount to character assassination of the respondents, there is no justification for granting a blanket injunction restraining the appellants from publishing any articles, in future. It would not be appropriate for us to examine the article at this stage on the touchstone of defamation, but what we do observe is that they are not of such a nature warranting a restraint order especially when the appellants are willing to face the consequences in a trial, in case the same are held to be defamatory and the plea of the appellants of truth is yet to be analysed by the Court.

The Division Bench went on to add

“29….At times public figures have to ignore vulgar critisims and abuses hurled against them and they must restrain themselves from giving importance to the same by prosecuting the person responsible for the same.”

39. The Division Bench also hastened to add that a citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education among other matters and none can publish anything in reference to the above matters without his/her consent whether laudatory or critical. After observing so, the Division Bench had granted a limited injunction with a right to the respondents to respond to the queries of the appellants on the suggested articles and with a direction to the appellants who were the publishers to publish the response of the respondents also if the responses were received within the time stipulated. I had in fact followed the observations of the Division Bench made in R.Rajagopal @ R.R.Gopal @ Nakkheeran Gopal and others v. J.Jayalitha and another in Ms.Kanimozhi Karunanidhi v. P.Varadarajan and others. Taking note of the law laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Justice K.S.Puttaswamy and Ors v. Union of India and Ors., I had granted a limited injunction restraining the respondents therein from publishing any article regarding the private life of the applicant therein her family, her marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and education without her consent. It was also made clear that whenever the respondents proposed to publish any article relating to the private life of the applicant, claiming that it is in public interest, the respondents were directed to forward their queries or the full article to the applicant to her email ID and await for her response. If any response is received within 48 years, the response shall also be published with the same prominence of the articles. If no response is received within the 48 hours, the respondents will be at liberty to go ahead and published the article. It was also made clear that the restrictions imposed will not apply to any article relating to the functions of the applicant as a Member of the Parliament or as a Leader of the Political Party. Therefore, what is protected in the form of privacy is really the personal life of an individual be it a political leader or a spiritual leader or an ordinary citizen.

40. As pointed out by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in kartar Singh ‘s case as early as in 1956, Public men in such positions may as well think it worth their while to ignore such vulgar criticisms and abuses hurled against them rather than give importance to the same by prosecuting the persons responsible for the same. While deprecating the conduct of the appellants in uttering such slogans, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the prosecution has failed to establish that the appellants were guilty of offences which they have been charged, because the case arose out of prosecution of the appellants for uttering such slogans under Section 9 of the Punjab Security of the State Act, 1953. While the above principles of law would apply to the case on hand also a factual difference which has been highlighted by Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel cannot be lightly brushed aside.

41. Mr.N.L.Rajah would point out that the 1st respondent is a Media Company running a news channel called Pudhiyathalaimurai Television. The 2nd respondent is the Managing Director of the 1st respondent Company. The 3rd respondent, runs a University as well as several Educational Institutions and he is also a founder of a political party called India Jananayaka Katchi, the 3rd respondent apart from being the founder of the political party is also the founder of the Educational Institution called SRM Group of Institutions. Though on paper, the 3rd respondent does not have anything to do with the 1st respondent or the Puthiyathalaimurai Television. The 2nd respondent who is the son of the 3rd respondent is the Managing Director of the 1st respondent Company, which runs the Television channel. The 2nd respondent also occupies an important position in University run by the 3rd respondent. Therefore, Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would submit that the 3rd respondent adorns the role of educationist, a political leader as well as the media baron. In such cases when the Court finds the actions of the 1st respondent are impelled by hate or malice or personal vendata that is entertained by the 3rd respondent as against the plaintiff’s p

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arty and its leaders, the Court can restrain the 1st respondent and its Television channel from airing the views of the 3rd respondent or similarly placed persons that is the political opponents of the plaintiff's political party and its leader, repeatedly so as to defame the plaintiff’s party and its leaders, apart from projecting the leaders of the plaintiff’s party in very bad light in the eyes of the general public, particularly, at the time when the elections have been announced. 42. Mr.N.L.Rajah, learned Senior Counsel would also submit that the actions of the respondent would be in breach of the model Code of Conduct. A reading of the interviews, portions of which have been already extracted, would demonstrate beyond doubt that the 3rd respondent nurtures malice or a grievance as against the plaintiff’s party and its leaders. He had dug into the past and made allegations of corruption against the leaders of the plaintiff’s party regarding events that took place way back in 2010-2011, when he commenced a Medical college. To a pertinent question by the interviewer as to why he did not reveal these facts earlier, the 3rd defendant had replied that they were friendly with me at that point of time, therefore, I did not choose to reveal or make these allegations earlier. 43. A reading of the interviews published in News Glitz as well as Kumudham Reporter would definitely lead to an impression that the 3rd defendant had started the tirade against the plaintiffs party and its leader only because they are in the opposite camp now. As regards the claim of the respondents that the 1st respondent or the 2nd respondent are not responsible for the views of the political leaders, who participate in the debates Mr.N.L.Rajah would point out that these persons come to the channel at the invitation of the 1st respondent or the 2nd respondent and they do not come on their own. 44. According to Mr.N.L.Rajah, the learned Senior Counsel, the 1st respondent invites people who are known of political opponents of the plaintiff’s party and its leader to the channel repeatedly and provides them a platform to hurl abuses against the plaintiff’s party and its leader. He would further point out an action for defamation as against the respondents would not be an adequate remedy in such cases were the respondents engaged third parties to hurl abuses against the plaintiff’s party and its leader. In such cases at least, according to Mr.N.L.Rajah learned Senior Counsel, an interim injunction would be a proper remedy. Countering the above submission of Mr.N.L.Rajah, Mr.Ar.L.Sunderasan, learned Senior Counsel would submit that the political leaders are invited with reference to certain topics and during the debate if they expressed some views against the plaintiff’s party and its leader, the respondents cannot be held responsible, for such statements being made by the political leaders. One cannot lose sight of the fact that these political leaders come to participate in the debates at the invitation of the 1st respondent. The choice of the political leaders who participate in such debates is with the 1st respondent. Therefore, the 1st respondent cannot wash of its hands saying that it cannot be held responsible views expressed by the political leaders who are invited by it to express their views in the Channel. 45. Therefore, I am of the considered opinion that though the plaintiff is not entitled to blanket injunction as prayed by him, it will be in the interest of justice that the views/responses of the plaintiff’s party and its leaders for the criticisms or imputations made against them by the news channel itself or by the political leaders who take part in the debates or interviews on invitation from the news channel are also published in the news channel within 36 hours on receipt. 46. In fine, the application is disposed of with the following directions: If the leaders of the plaintiff’s party send their responses to any of the comments or news items published in the news channel (Puthiyathalaimurai Television Channel) either on their own or to the comments or remarks made by the political leaders who participate in debates or interviews at the invitation of the 1st respondent within 24 hours from the publication of the offending news item or views, the 1st respondent shall make sure that the response is also published within 36 hours of the receipt of the same by the news channel, subject to the above directions, the application is dismissed and interim injunction as already granted is vacated. However, in the circumstances, there will be no order as to costs.
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