HC declines Jindal's plea for stay on Zee TV news about him

HC declines Jindal's plea for stay on Zee TV news about him

The Delhi High Court today refused to grant industrialist and lawmaker Naveen Jindal's plea for a blanket order restraining Zee TV from airing news reports which were allegedly defamatory in their content.

Justice V K Shali said Jindal and his company Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) "have not been able to satisfy that they have got a prima facie good case" and disposed of their plea.

The court, however, directed Zee to follow the guidelines of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) as per which they would be required to obtain the views of Jindal and JSPL in case they intend to televise any programme pertaining to him or his companies.

"The publications may be inaccurate, not fully or substantially true or may be distorted or may be offending sensibilities of the person against whom such allegations are made or may be to his annoyance but that is not to be the ground to muzzle them altogether.

"It is more so in a case when a person, holder of a public office or aspiring to become a member of an elected body is amidst the din of electioneering. It is a common knowledge that while the elections are on, all kinds of accusations and counter-accusations are bound to fly thick and fast in all directions of which a person must not complain unless and until the allegations against him are per se defamatory.

"I do not prima facie find that except that there may be incorrect statements or inaccurate statements which are made by the defendants in its televised reporting or which may be not to the liking of the plaintiff or which may be causing annoyance to him are not per se defamatory," the court said.

The court was also of the view that the best course of action is to "ignore such inaccurate reporting" rather than raise an objection as because by the latter course, you are giving it more importance..."

Justice Shali also said that to restrain Zee at this stage from pre-telecasting of its programme or news "would not only be gagging the right to freedom of press but also gagging of the public to know about a candidate" who is to be elected.

Jindal, in his plea, contended that Zee had "unleashed a campaign of vilification on their news channel by making false, vicious and pernicious allegations with a view to defame the plaintiffs".

He had also alleged that the defamatory allegations were aired by Zee in its news programme between March 1, 2014 to March 24, 2014 and were repeated 131 times.

He had contended that the news broadcast had not only affected the sentiments of a particular community and caste but were also "done with a view to damage" his prospects in getting elected to Parliament in the ensuing elections.

Zee had contended that since the entire matter was in the public domain, therefore, "no pre-publication interim order needs to be issued in favour of the plaintiffs (Jindal and JSPL)".

It had also argued that if a restraint order is issued then its right to freedom of speech and expression would get violated.

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