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Delhi HC restrains Malpani from making defamatory comments against WhiteHat Jr: Report

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday restrained investor Aniruddha Malpani from making any defamatory comment and statements against WhiteHat Jr and its employees, Bar & Bench reported

On Monday, Byju’s-owned WhiteHat Jr had managed to obtain a partial gag order from the Delhi High Court in a similar defamation case filed against Pradeep Poonia, who has been openly critical of the company’s practices and the resultant impact of children. Justice Mukta Gupta, who also ruled on the Poonia case, ordered Malpani to remove some of his tweets. In his tweets, Malpani called the company a racket, compared it to a pig, and accused it of being shameless and stealing information from Code.org, according to an account of the hearing from Bar & Bench. 

For the record, Malpani had not compared the company to a pig, but referred to WhiteHat Jr.’s  appointment of Sameer Bajaj, as a company executive, as “appointing a spin doctor is like putting lipstick on a pig”. The lawsuit mentions over 30 tweets which it alleges are defamatory or infringes upon the company’s trademark. Claiming ₹14 crore in damages, the company also alleged unfair competition and disparagement by Malpani, whose firm has invested in ed-tech startups. 

In the defamation suit, WhiteHat Jr and its co-founder and chief executive officer Karan Bajaj claimed that Malpani’s tweets contain “unfounded allegations” that the company’s operations are corrupt and unethical, that it’s employers are unqualified, its service is overpriced and unhealthy for children, and also that WhiteHat Jr’s course material is stolen from Code.org. WhiteHat Jr pleaded the court for a permanent injunction restraining Malpani from posting defamatory content, infringing its trademark, and asked that all the mentioned tweets be removed.

Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul appearing for WhiteHat Jr said Malpani had launched a slander campaign against the company on social media. However, the court said there was no material to show trademark infringement, unlike Pradeep Poonia’s case, wherein he was using the username WhiteHat Snr on Twitter.

Advocate Yadunath Bhargavan, appearing for Malpanni, pointed out that WhiteHat Jr is cracking down on dissent despite being a US$12 billion startup. Bhargava also argued that the Delhi High Court does not have jurisdiction as both WhiteHat Jr and Malpani are based in Mumbai, which the court refuted, stating that defamation can happen anywhere. The matter will now be heard on January 14, 2021.

In recent months, WhiteHat Jr. has managed to wipe any criticism about itself off of YouTube by claiming copyright infringements. Apart from posts on YouTube, multiple people who have critiqued the company or its ads have found their posts wiped across social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter and Quora, Forbes India reported. Multiple videos posted by Poonia and at least two of his YouTube channels have been removed.

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