The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought online news platform Newslaundry’s stand on whether they will delete videos pertaining to TV Today Network’s vice chairperson Kalli Purie.
A division bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Saurabh Banerjee asked Newslaundry’s counsel to obtain instructions on the deletion of the video on Purie and also asked the counsel to obtain instructions on the deletion of the video, which allegedly contains certain “disparaging remarks” against reporters of the network.
On the issue of copyright infringement raised by the network against the platform, the HC said that there did not seem to be any infringement of copyright, and the platform’s programmes appeared to be in exercise of “fair comment”. “We have to be thick skinned. It is good for everyone. We agree with you on two aspects. The (video on the) daughter (Kalli Purie)… and the comments on reporters. Rest is fair comment,” the bench said orally after it was shown certain videos.
After the counsel for Newslaundry sought time to obtain instructions, the HC listed the matter on March 14, 2023.
Last year, TV Today Network, which owns news channels like Aaj Tak and India Today, had filed a lawsuit against Newslaundry and its staff for allegedly tarnishing its reputation through its programmes. As interim relief, it had asked for the allegedly defamatory and commercially disparaging content to be removed from the website. It had also accused the online portal of infringement of copyrighted content.
However, on July 29, a single judge bench of Justice Asha Menon refused to grant interim relief to the network, stating that it will “be in the interest of the public that every broadcaster has the right of fair comment on current events and of criticism and review, including of the programmes created by others”.
On TV Today Network’s allegations that Newslaundry portrayed it in poor light, the court said that determination can be made only after the conclusion of the trial. Justice Menon said that while some of the portal’s content was “ex facie defamatory or disparaging of the programmes of TV Today Network”, others appeared to be criticism and opinion.
While the judge agreed that there was a prima facie case made out in the network’s favour, that alone did not entitle the network to interim injunction as Newslaundry has to be given an opportunity to prove their defence of justification and fair dealing during trial. The network challenged the order of the single judge in appeal before the division bench. Newslaundry also moved an appeal claiming that the observations of the single-judge were erroneous and in clear contravention of the law on defamation and disparagement.
“The Ld. Single Judge in the judgment and order dated 29.07.2022 has entirely failed to appreciate that the content of the Appellant (Newslaundry) falls within the realm of ‘fair criticism’ and ‘satire’ and as such, nothing in the content created by the Appellant would be per se defamatory to the Respondent No. 1 (TV Today),” the platform has claimed in appeal.
Justice Menon in her judgment held that use of words in Newslaundry’s content like ”shit standards’, ”shit playing” on the channel, ”shit reporters” and ”shit show” shows that it was intended by the platform “to indicate that the programmes/shows of the plaintiff are bad”. The single judge further went to hold that to say that “one of the anchors was engaged as she had great potential for starting a rioting would seem disparaging of the capacity of the Plaintiff to engage capable anchors apart from a questioning of the anchor’s own capabilities”, and how such statements would be justified by the platform is not evident.