- The Bombay HighCourt, while deciding on Sameer Wankhede v. Nawab Malik defamation case held that the public have right to examine and comment on actions of public officials, after reasonable verification of facts.
- It was also held that in this case it cannot be said that the defendant has verified the facts before posting them.
- The plaintiff, who is the father of Sameer Wankhede contended that the tweets, media content, posts uploaded by the defendant on his social media accounts are highly defamatory, slanderous as well as libellous, as it contains incorrect facts and conclusions, communicates misinformation and incomplete information, and is a deliberate, calculated move on the Defendant’s part to knowingly and maliciously defame, inter alia, the Plaintiff and his family.
- The court observed that there is a need to balance fundamental rights of the plaintiff and of the defendant as Plaintiff and his family members have a right to privacy which is part of Article 21 and the Defendant has the right to freedom of speech and expression subject to the restrictions imposed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.
- It was observed that judging the facts and circumstances it is clear that the Defendant while making tweets media content, videos, press conference etc. Regarding allegation No.1 have not carried out reasonable verification of facts.
- The court also commented that the defendant has not acted after reasonable verification of the facts, however it cannot be said that allegations made by him are totally false.
- The court held that the public have a right to examine and comment on actions of public officials keeping in mind that the facts should be reasonably verified as said by the Apex Court. the court observed that “it is in the facts and circumstances of this case prima facie found that the Defendant’s actions are actuated by malice or personal animosity it is necessary that the Defendant be directed to publish writing, speaking with media including electronic media and the social media or publishing in any manner whatsoever any content/material which is defamatory of the Plaintiff and/or his family members only after carrying out reasonable verification of the facts”
- It was noted that the defendant has raised very important issues concerning the acts and conduct of the plaintiff’s son, Sameer Wankhede who is a public official.
- The court held that the defamation suit seems to be maintainable as in this case allegations are made against the plaintiff himself. Even if the allegations are made against his son, he is also getting defamed in the process.
- The court refused to grant ad-interim relief but however, directed the defendant in accordance with the principles set by Apex Court in R. Rajgopal case to conduct reasonable verification of the facts before publishing, writing, speaking in media or publishing on social media.
- What is defamation?
- Right to privacy is granted in which article of the constitution?
- Right to freedom of speech is granted by which article of the constitution?
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