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Bombay High Court: Content posted against Serum Institute of India Prima Facie defamatory

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Published on: 06 June 2023 at 12:27 IST

Bombay High Court ruled that the content posted by two individuals and their organizations against the Serum Institute of India (SII), a major vaccine manufacturer, was “prima facie defamatory.”

The court directed the individuals to delete the content and temporarily restrained them from posting any further material against the company. In December 2022, the SII had filed a defamation lawsuit seeking damages of Rs 100 crore from the two individuals and their organizations for allegedly posting false information about the company and its COVID-19 vaccine Covishield.

The high court’s interim order stated that it was of the preliminary opinion that the SII had provided sufficient evidence to show that the content and accusations made by the individuals were defamatory.

In the interim order, the judge stated, “I am of the prima facie view that the contents are per se defamatory. The vaccine is not banned. No case is made out by the defendants.” The court will schedule a later date for the final hearing of the company’s lawsuit.

The High Court directed the defendants to delete all their posts and content targeting the company, and they are temporarily restrained from posting any such content until the suit is heard and decided. In its lawsuit, the SII alleged that the defendants—Yohan Tengra, his organization Anarchy for Freedom India, and Ambar Koiri and his organization Awaken India Movement—had been circulating defamatory content against the company and its COVID-19 vaccine Covishield.

The suit said the defendants had also been posting incorrect information that implied the Covishield vaccine was the cause of deaths of multiple persons due to side-effects.

The posts released were not only targeting the SII, but also its Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla, it said. The plea sought the HC to restrain the defendants from publishing, circulating any content against the SII or its employees.