Delhi HC Orders Removal of X Posts Against Rajat Sharma: It Would Cause Harm To His Reputation As A Respectable Journalist

Rajat Sharma Law Insider

Published on: June 15, 2024 22:31 IST

In a defamation case involving journalist Rajat Sharma and Congress party leaders Ragini Nayak, Jairam Ramesh, and Pawan Khera, the Delhi High Court directed the removal of social media posts and videos alleging Sharma’s misconduct on June 14.

Justice Neena Bansal Krishna issued an ex parte order, noting that the Congress leaders had sensationalized and misrepresented an incident between Sharma and Nayak. The Court emphasized that leaving the contested content on public platforms posed a significant threat to Sharma’s reputation, potentially causing irreparable harm.

The Court remarked, “Citizens have a right to freedom of speech and expression, but there is also a corresponding duty to remain truthful to the incident. The X posts berating the plaintiff are oversensationalized and depict facts that are patently false. Prima facie dissemination of such X Posts has not only harmed the plaintiff’s reputation, as asserted by him, but also poses a persistent threat of future misuse. The imminent threat of these videos, which prima facie depict the plaintiff in an untrue light, necessitates their removal from the public domain until the suit is finally decided.”

The Single-Judge Bench clarified that while the order required the removal of the contentious posts and the privatization of certain videos, it did not infringe on the defendants’ freedom of speech. The Court highlighted that the potential harm from these posts remaining public outweighed any inconvenience to the defendants from their removal.

The Bench ordered, “The X Posts/Tweets (URLs annexed as ‘Annexure-1’) which have not been removed, must be removed within seven days by the defendants in accordance with the Intermediary Guidelines. It is further directed that the videos in the public domain be made private by defendant No.2 and not be re-posted without the Court’s permission.”

Rajat Sharma had filed a defamation suit seeking Rs. 100 crore in damages against Nayak, Khera, and Ramesh. The controversy arose from a video clip circulated on social media alleging that Sharma used abusive language towards Nayak during a television broadcast on India TV. Nayak subsequently filed a police complaint against Sharma, while he accused the Congress party’s media cell of spreading false accusations.

The Bench opined, “Allowing the videos and Tweets to remain in the public domain would cause irreparable harm to the plaintiff’s reputation as a respectable journalist. No harm would come to the defendants if the material is removed until the suit is adjudicated on merits. These tweets have the potential to damage the plaintiff’s reputation in the future, with no practical means of reparation.”

The Court concluded that the balance of convenience favored the plaintiff, as making the videos private or preventing their availability on public platforms would not infringe on the defendants’ rights to freedom of speech and expression, which they can still exercise within defined parameters. The potential inconvenience from these videos and X posts remaining public could cause irreparable harm that cannot be compensated by damages.

The Court allowed the application.

Cause Title: Rajat Sharma v X Corp (Formerly Twitter) & Ors [Neutral Citation: 2024: DHC: 4757]

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