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Delhi HC restrains Twitter user from posting defamatory content against India Today Group, Rajdeep Sardesai, its other employees

We missed this earlier: The Delhi High Court in September restrained a Twitter user called Anurag Srivastava from publishing, re-publishing, sending or posting any content which is derogatory or defamatory of the India Today Group, its top management, anchors, and other office bearers. Srivastava has been directed to not post such content “either in the electronic form or through internet, email of social media, or any print or communication media whatsoever”, the Court ordered. LiveLaw first reported the order on Monday.

A bench of Justice Mukta Gupta also flagged two Twitter accounts used by Srivastava, and directed the platform to block both the handles. However, at the time of publication, both the handles were still accessible. The Court also directed Twitter to file the basic subscription information of Srivastava, and supply it to the India Today Group as a password protected document.

How the case started: In early September, the India Today Group had had said Srivastava has made “false and malicious statements” with the intent of defaming the company. It had lodged a formal complaint against Srivastava with Twitter, and had said will initiate legal action against him.

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The tweets in question: As per the Court’s order, Srivastava had allegedly tweeted that the India Today Group and one of its main anchors, presumably Rajdeep Sardesai, had taken a sum of ₹ 8 Crores to interview a personality present in news, a likely reference to the interview Sardesai did with Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty. In another tweet, Srivastava had alleged said that at the time of Sardesai’s birth, the concerned nurse made “obnoxious remarks and that the said anchor is involved in making fake news”. Srivastava also allegedly compared Sardesai to “a person” who is facing extradition charges. MediaNama has not seen a copy of these tweets as they were taken down at the time of publishing this story.

Tweets still available via Google search: Interestingly, India Today’s lawyers contended that while the tweets were taken down from Twitter, they could still be found through a Google search. In response, Google said that it will provide a web form to the India Today Group which can use it to apply for the deletion of the particular search results. Google also contended that as time passes, these tweets will not show up in search results. MediaNama couldn’t locate the tweets on Google.

Similar order by the Delhi HC in September: This is at least the second time that the India Today Group has approached the Delhi High Court in September alone to complain against allegedly defamatory content against the company, and Rajdeep Sardesai. Last month, the Delhi High Court directed Twitter to take down a series of tweets published by a former employee of the India Today Group, for prima facie defaming the company and its consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai. Curiously, the former employee had also tweeted about the “money that changed hands” for Chakraborty’s interview with Sardesai, among other things.

India Today’s social media gag order against its employees

Just last week, the India Today Group came under fire on social media after a copy of its interim social media policy surfaced online. In the policy, the company directed its journalists to not share their personal political views on “any social media platform”, in order to maintain the company’s “reputation for impartiality”. Alarmingly, even as the company communicated the rule to its employees over an email on Wednesday, it wrote in the email “that this is not, by any means, a breach of your right to expression or freedom of the press”.

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