Responding to the lawsuit filed by Natco against SpicyIP founder Shamnad Basheer in which the drug company has asked for a permanent injunction and Rs 25,00,000 in damages for allegedly publishing defamatory and libelous statements about it, the Intellectual Property focused blog has questioned the merits of the case and has defended Basheer’s right to freedom of speech.
Defamation Charges For Stating One’s Opinion? In a blogpost on SpicyIP, Prashant Reddy, a SpicyIP member, writes that to establish the defamation charges, Natco has to prove that Shamnad’s statements were false and that it had faced damages due to these false statements. However, he notes that Natco has neither denied any of Basheer’s statements nor has it provided any alternative explanation as to why these statements were allegedly defamatory for Natco. Instead, it had just focused on how these statements lowered the company’s reputation in the public eye.
He notes that Natco cannot sue Basheer or anyone else just because they point out Natco’s faults and highlighted contradictory statements made by Natco in the court, to the general public.
No Details on individuals: Natco had claimed that several government officials, doctors and patients had approached the company questioning it as to how it could be involved in such malpractice,following the publication of these articles. It had also claimed that these articles had deeply shaken the faith of patients who were currently taking Natco’s drugs. However, Reddy points out that Natco has not provided any details on these individuals or has pointed out how Shamnad’s statements had any connection to shaking the faith of the patients.
Free Speech: Reddy also points out that Basheer has rights to give opinion on whether any company’s legal strategy is reckless or stupid, under his right to free speech. Reddy points out that Natco has not been able to prove that any of Basheer’s statements were factually wrong.
Uploading Court Pleadings: Natco had alleged that Basheer had a secret understanding with BMS (Bristol-Myers Squibb) to gain access to confidential court pleadings, however, Reddy writes that court pleadings have never been confidential and points out that Natco had not indicated any legislation or any precedent in which court pleadings were privileged or confidential. That being said, he notes that Basheer had obtained the documents from BMS by writing to the party through a litigation.
Objectivity: In a separate article, Reddy points out Basheer had been objective in his posts and had not been biased towards BMS in any way, as claimed by Natco. He points out that Basheer had criticized BMS for the company’s attempts to bring in drug patent linkage in the blogpost, and had also criticized the company previously when BMS had sued a similar company. Interestingly, Reddy also points out that Natco didn’t have any issues when Basheer spoke in favor of Natco in a separate case, a few months ago.
At MediaNama, we support the right to free speech and opinion, and we have criticized several companies and government policies, over the years, in a bid to provide the complete picture to our readers. Having said that, it should also be noted that free speech doesn’t give a license to say anything, and any opinion given should be backed with facts and proof to substantiate it.