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Delhi HC directs Twitter user to take down defamatory tweets against India Today Group

The Delhi High Court last week directed conservative Twitter influencer Sumeet Thakkar to take down allegedly defamatory tweets made against India Today’s parent company, its top management, and employees. In an earlier hearing in May, the court had held that a few tweets made by Thakkar against India Today and its employees could be extremely damaging to their reputation and also cause personal injury to them and their family members. LiveLaw first reported this.

The order, passed on November 18 by a single bench of Justice Mukta Gupta, directed Thakkar to remove 29 tweets flagged by India Today’s parent within 48 hours. In case Thakkar doesn’t remove the tweets in the stipulated time, Twitter will have to remove the tweets within 72 hours, the court held. The matter has now been listed for January 14.

Thakkar was arrested in October for making allegedly objectionable remarks against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and the state’s Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray.

How the case started: TV Today Network — India Today’s parent company — had filed a lawsuit against Thakkar and Aadhyaasi Media and Content Services Private Limited, alleging that Thakkar had, on April 15, published 35 tweets making various allegations against India Today and its employees. Since then, TV Today Network alleged, he continued publishing several tweets using very disparaging and derogatory language against the group and its employees.

The company, in a hearing in May, argued that the allegations made against them by Thakkar were baseless, and had also been retweeted by other Twitter users, thereby increasing their reach.

Hrishikesh Baruah, India Today Group’s lawyer, argued that the company’s founder Aroon Purie and popular news anchor Rahul Kanwal “enjoy enormous goodwill and reputation in the industry, and making baseless allegations and using of derogatory and disparaging remarks against them has caused personal injury to their reputation”.

Following that, the court held that a “prima facie case is made out for grant of interim relief to protect the Plaintiff until the Defendant enters appearance in the matter”.

“The tweets make wild allegations and also use derogatory and defamatory language against the Plaintiff, its management and its employees. The tweets are also very offensive and some contain abusive language. Such a campaign against the Plaintiff, its management and employees can be extremely damaging to their reputation and also cause personal injury to them and their family members. The tweets are in bad taste and use objectionable language including abuses,” the court had held in the May hearing.

India Today’s getting a lot of allegedly defamatory content removed

This is at least the third time in only the last few months that the India Today Group has approached the Delhi High Court to complain against allegedly defamatory content against the company.

In September, the Delhi High Court 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.

The same 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

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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