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Delhi Court Directs Bloomberg to Take Down Alleged Defamatory Article on Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd

The court has also restrained Bloomberg from further circulating or publishing the article titled ‘India Regulator Uncovers $ 241 Million Accounting Issue at Zee’ on any online or offline platform until the next hearing.

In a defamation case filed by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, a Delhi Court has directed news organisation The Bloomberg to take down an article regarding Zee’s financials, according to a report by LiveLaw.

The Court has asked Bloomberg to take down the article titled ‘India Regulator Uncovers $ 241 Million Accounting Issue at Zee’ within one week of the receipt of the order dated March 1, 2024. The order, shared by LiveLaw, also restrains Bloomberg from further circulating or publishing the article in question on any online or offline platform until the next hearing, scheduled for March 26, 2024.

More about the case:

Zee, in its complaint, has alleged that the content of the article is related to its “corporate governance and business operation”, is speculative in nature, and has caused economic damages to the company. It has further alleged that the said article is defamatory and has been published with a “pre-meditated and malafide intention”.

The complaint also stated that while Bloomberg has published several articles against Zee in the past, the current report has gone to the extent of “alleging illegal fund diversion without any basis.”

While passing the ex-parte ad interim injunction, the additional district judge Harjyot Singh Bhalla of Saket Courts found that “irreparable loss and injury” may be caused to Zee, if the injunction is not granted. An ex-parte ad interim injunction is an urgent order passed without any notice to the defendant (Bloomberg in this case) to prevent any potential infringement of the plaintiff’s or the complainant’s rights.

Why does it matter?

Courts have previously issued ex-parte interim injunctions in defamation cases to minimise harm to the complainant. However, in cases involving the publication of content, such orders raise concerns of censorship.

For example, in September 2023, a Bengaluru Civil Court passed an ex-parte temporary injunction order directing microblogging platform X to suspend/block the social media handle “@theliverdr” of Dr. Cyriac Abby Philips following a defamation case filed by Himalaya Wellness Corporation. Lawyers like Manu Sebastian and Gautam Bhatia criticised the order stating that the order was passed “in ignorance of basic principles of defamation law.”

Similarly, in December 2023, Policybazaar sent a defamation notice to the online insurance review platform Beshak.org over two of the latter’s articles on Policybazaar. Standing by what they wrote, Beshak Founder Mahavir Chopra said: “Our content is 100% unbiased – based on facts. Period. We will fight for our constitutional rights of freedom of speech.”

Defamation notices can have a chilling effect on freedom of the press by encouraging self-censorship and limiting the scope of journalistic work, meant to uncover truth and report facts.  As discussed by MediaNama Founder-Editor Nikhil Pahwa in 2015 following a legal notice to MediaNama from Star India, a defamation notice to one publication may discourage many other publications from reporting on the matter in question. Highlighting that in the case of criminal defamation, truth is not always applicable as a defence, Pahwa quoted lawyer Nandita Saikia who wrote:

“As far as the ‘truth defence’ is concerned, although ‘truth’ is generally considered to be a defence to defamation as a civil offence, under criminal law, only truth is a defence to defamation as a crime (assuming, of course, that it is demonstrably true) only in a limited number of circumstances. This can make persons particularly vulnerable to being held guilty of having committed defamation under the IPC even if the imputations they made were truthful.” (emphasis ours)

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Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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