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Bringing A Balance Between Defamation And Right To Speech; Mandatory To Follow The Threefold Test In Granting Injunction

Varsha Rajesh ,
  05 April 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Fao No.79/2024

CASE TITLE:

BLOOMBERG TELEVISION PRODUCTION SERVICES INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED & ORS. VERSUS ZEE ENTERTAINMENT ENTERPRISES LIMITED

DATE OF ORDER:  

14th MARCH 2024

JUDGES:

HON'BLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE 

HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE J.B. PARDIWALA 

HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE MANOJ MISRA

PARTIES:  

PETITIONER - BLOOMBERG TELEVISION PRODUCTION SERVICES                

INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED & ORS

RESPONDENT: ZEE ENTERTAINMENT ENTERPRISES LIMITED 

SUBJECT:

In this case, the trial court's ex-parte ad interim injunction, which ordered Bloomberg Television Production Services India Private Limited & Ors. (the petitioner/appellant) to take down an article from their website and refrain from publishing it until the next hearing, is being appealed. Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited is the respondent/defendant in this lawsuit. The fundamental question is how to strike a balance between the freedom of speech and the right to privacy and reputation, especially considering defamation lawsuits involving journalists and media outlets.

BRIEF FACTS

  • Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (the respondent/defendant) and Bloomberg Television Production Services India Private Limited & Ors. (the petitioner/appellant) are at odds in this case. 
  • The ex-parte ad interim injunction that the trial court imposed, ordering the petitioner to take down an article from their web platform and prohibiting them from posting it until the next hearing, is what gave birth to the disagreement.
  • The disputed article was posted on the petitioner's internet platform on February 21, 2024. The respondent requested the injunction, claiming that they were the targets of defamatory content in the piece.
  • The ex-parte order was granted by the trial court without detailed consideration of the case's merits or the necessity of the injunction. 
  • The petitioner appealed to the Indian Supreme Court after feeling wronged by the injunction orders.

QUESTIONS RAISED

  • What factors are considered by courts while granting ex-parte ad interim injunctions? 
  • How should courts balance the fundamental right to free speech with the right to reputation and privacy in defamation suits involving media platforms and journalists?
  • Why is it important for courts to provide detailed reasons and analyse the three-fold test when granting interim relief in defamation suits? 
  • In what circumstances should courts grant ex-parte injunctions in defamation proceedings against media platforms?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT 

  • The appellant contended that insufficient justification was given by the trial court and the Delhi High Court Single Judge for the injunction's issuance. They argued that unjustified censorship resulted from the courts' inadequate consideration of the case's merits or the need for the injunction.
  • The appellant claimed that the trial court and the Delhi High Court's Single Judge had improperly applied the three-fold standard when awarding temporary relief. They contended that prior to granting the injunction, the courts failed to sufficiently consider the irreparable injury, balance of convenience, and prima facie case.
  • In particular, the appellant claimed that the injunction violated their right to free speech about media outlets and journalists. They argued that the respondent's right to privacy and reputation was not adequately balanced against the right to free expression by the courts.
  • The appellant argued that by imposing the injunction without providing adequate justification, the trial court and the Delhi High Court's Single Judge had inappropriately used their discretionary powers. 
  • Prior to issuing an injunction, the appellant stressed the significance of performing a prima facie analysis of the case. They contended that the injunction orders should be set aside because the trial court and the Delhi High Court Single Judge neglected to carry out this kind of evaluation.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The respondent argued that in defamation cases involving media outlets and journalists, courts should weigh the basic right to free expression against the right to privacy and reputation. To uphold the constitutional obligation of preserving journalistic freedom, the respondent stressed that courts must exercise caution when awarding pre-trial interim injunctions. 

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT

  • The trial court and the Delhi High Court Single Judge were chastised by the Court for improperly implementing the three-fold criteria for awarding temporary relief. It stressed that prior to granting the injunction, the courts failed to fully consider the irreparable injury, balance of convenience, and prima facie case. 
  • The "three-fold test" of establishing (i) a prima facie case, (ii) balance of convenience, and (iii) irreparable loss or harm, for the grant of interim relief, is well-established in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.
  • The court emphasized how crucial it is to strike a balance between the rights to privacy and reputation and the freedom of speech, especially when it comes to defamation cases involving journalists and media outlets. It stated that the appellant's right to free speech was violated by the injunction and emphasized the need for courts to give this issue considerable consideration.
  • The trial court and the Delhi High Court's Single Judge came under fire from the court for ordering the injunction without giving sufficient justification. It was pointed out that the courts' insufficient consideration of the case's merits or the need for the injunction led to unjustifiable censorship. 
  • The court stressed how crucial it is to evaluate the case prima facie before issuing an injunction. It was pointed out that the erroneous issuing of the injunction was caused in part by the trial courts and the Delhi High Court's Single Judge's failure to carry out such an assessment.
  • The court determined that the injunction was illegally issued by the trial court and the Delhi High Court Single Judge using their discretionary powers. It was observed that established legal criteria controlling the granting or denial of temporary injunctions were disregarded by the courts.
  • The court overturned previous orders and directed the case back to the trial Judge for reconsideration. After hearing from both sides and considering the Supreme Court's guidance, the trial judge must issue new orders. The respondents may reapply for an injunction. Each party retains all their rights and claims. Before the following court listing, the appellants must reply to the request for an injunction.

CONCLUSION

The trial court's ex-parte ad interim injunction orders, which were affirmed by the Delhi High Court's single judge, were overturned by the Supreme Court of India. Following a careful examination, the court concluded that the lower courts had not properly applied the law and had not given the matter a thorough evaluation prior to granting the injunction.

The right to privacy and reputation must be balanced with the right to free speech, according to the Supreme Court, especially when it comes to defamation lawsuits involving journalists and media outlets. It pointed out that sufficient justification must be given for such injunctions and denounced the lower courts for violating the appellant's right to free speech.

Reviewed by Adv. Nishtha Wadhwa, Content Writer and Reviewer, LCI


 

 
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