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Defamation case: Apex court to hear Kejriwal's plea against Delhi HC order upholding summons tomorrow

The high court, while refusing to quash the trial court's 2019 order summoning Kejriwal, had said when a public figure tweets a defamatory post, the ramifications extend far beyond a mere whisper in someone's ears.
Last Updated 25 February 2024, 17:09 IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday a plea by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenging a Delhi High Court order which upheld summons issued to him as an accused in a criminal defamation case for retweeting an allegedly defamatory video circulated by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee in May 2018.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta is likely to hear the matter.

In its judgement dated February 5, 2024, the high court had said that reposting alleged libelous content will attract defamation law.

The high court had said a sense of responsibility has to be attached while retweeting content about which one does not have knowledge and added that retweeting of defamatory content must invite penal, civil as well as tort action if the person retweeting it does not attach a disclaimer.

"This court is of the view that rigours of Section 499 (defamation) of IPC will be attracted prima facie in case a person retweets/ reposts the alleged defamatory remarks or content, for the purpose of the general public to see, appreciate and believe," the high court had said.

The high court, while refusing to quash the trial court's 2019 order summoning Kejriwal, had said when a public figure tweets a defamatory post, the ramifications extend far beyond a mere whisper in someone's ears.

"In social media, where information travels at lightning speed and has the potential to reach a global audience, the act of tweeting transforms the communication into a form of public publication. The audience, in this context, is not restricted to those physically present or within immediate earshot but encompasses the vast and diverse online community."

"In the digital age, the boundaries of 'publication' have expanded, and the implications of defamation are heightened due to the potential of widespread dissemination," the high court had said.

It had said if the act of retweeting or reposting is allowed to be misused as it is still considered to be a vacant grey area of law, it will encourage people with ill intentions to misuse this vacant field of law and conveniently take a plea that they had merely retweeted a content.

The chief minister had said the trial court failed to appreciate that his tweet was not intended or likely to harm complainant Vikas Sankrityayan.

The plea said the trial court erred in not providing any reasons for issuing the summons and the orders were 'ex-facie' devoid of judicial application of mind.

Sankrityayan claimed the YouTube video with the title 'BJP IT Cell Part II' was circulated by Rathee, who lives in Germany, 'wherein a number of false and defamatory allegations were made'.

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(Published 25 February 2024, 17:09 IST)

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