Absence of Material to Substantiate Lieutenant Governor Was Involved In Corruption: Delhi High Court Asks AAP Leaders to take Down Defamatory Posts

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The Delhi High Court has asked the AAP leaders to take down defamatory posts against the Lieutenant Governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena stating that he was involved in corruption.

Facts

The plaintiff is the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi and is a Constitutional Authority. The defendant is a political party, Aam Aadmi Party. The defendants launched a barrage of personal attacks against the plaintiff, making unsubstantiated and baseless allegations that the plaintiff has indulged in corruption and money laundering to the tune of Rs.1,400,00,00,000 at the time of demonetization i, while the plaintiff was the Chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

The defendants have created and circulated hashtags, which include “#LG_Saxena_Ko_Giraftar_Karo” and “#LG_Saxena_Chor_Hai”. The defendants have posted various tweets and videos in the form of interviews and press conferences on social media platforms of the defendants in order to tarnish the reputation of the plaintiff.

The defendants have also conducted interviews in the news media towards defaming the plaintiff. The whole foundation of the libellous posts/tweets and slanderous statements of the defendants is based on extracts of the statements of two accused persons, Mr. Sanjeev Malik and Mr. Pradeep Kumar Yadav, former employees of KVIC.

Arguments

The plaintiff argued that the alleged statements made by the accused persons pursuant to the FIR were fabricated and are not part of the statements made before the Investigation Agencies. Even otherwise, the statements of the accused are in the nature of hearsay and therefore, on the basis of the aforesaid statements, the defendants cannot tarnish the reputation of the plaintiff. The daughter of the plaintiff had rendered her services as an interior designer to KVIC on a pro bono basis. In this regard, attention of the Court is drawn to a letter dated 2nd September, 2022, issued by KVIC and filed at page 991 of the documents of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff urged that defendants have a huge following on social media and therefore, the defamatory statements being made by them have a wide reach. 

The defendant contended that the allegations of corruption on the part of the plaintiff during the demonetization in November, 2016 are based on the statements given by the accused persons. The daughter of the plaintiff was assigned a contract from KVIC for designing a lounge, while the plaintiff was the Chairman of KVIC.  Cash payments to various weavers in Baghalpur, Bihar were made when the plaintiff was the Chairman of KVIC. 

Court’s Observation

The single bench of Justice Amit Bansal has held that on a prima facie view, the various statements/interviews/press conferences/tweets/re-tweets/hashtags made by the defendants are per se defamatory. The same have been made in a reckless manner, without any factual verification, in order to tarnish the reputation of the plaintiff. It cannot be gainsaid that the reputation of a person is earned after years and the same cannot be tarnished by any other individual in a casual manner. 

The damage caused to the reputation of an individual is immediate and far- reaching on the internet. So long as the impugned content continues to be in circulation and visible on social media, it is likely to cause continuing damage to the reputation and image of the plaintiff. Balance of convenience is in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants. 

Grave and irreparable harm and injury would be caused to the reputation of the plaintiff if the aforesaid defamatory content continues to exist on the internet and the social media platforms of the defendants and/or if the defendants are permitted to continue making defamatory statements of this nature against the plaintiff.

Case title: Vinai Kumar Saxena v/s Aam Aadmi Party & Ors.

Citation: CS(OS) 593/2022

Click here to read the Order/Judgment 

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