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Delhi High Court directs TMC's Saket Gokhale to apologise to ex-diplomat Lakshmi Puri, pay Rs 50 lakh damages

Puri approached the high court in 2021, alleging that Gokhale tarnished her good name and reputation by making reckless and false allegations about her financial affairs in the context of an apartment that she owned in Geneva.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 12:47 IST

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday directed TMC's Rajya Sabha MP Saket Gokhale to pay Rs 50 lakh as damages to Lakshmi Puri, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and wife of Union Minister Hardeep Puri, for putting out a series of tweets in 2021, accusing her of buying a flat in Switzerland through illicit money.

A bench of Justice Anup J Bhambhani held that the contents of the offending tweets have diminished and harmed the position, which the plaintiff has earned for herself in society.

"The offending tweets are per-se defamatory; that the plaintiff has suffered undeserved legal injury to her reputation, which warrants redressal," the bench said, directing Gokhale, who also claimed to be an RTI activist, to pay the amount within eight weeks.

The court also ordered Saket to tender an unconditional apology to ex- diplomat Puri on his Twitter account, now known as 'X' and publish it also in a newspaper within four weeks.

"The bell can't be un-rung. The damage caused to the plaintiff's reputation by the offending tweets cannot be effaced completely. An express, unreserved and unconditional apology is the very least that is required from defendant No 1," the bench said.

The court also observed regrettably, messages on social media generate a social media chain reaction as it were, which is no less dangerous in today's milieu than a nuclear reaction gone out of control.

In the case, the court noted the record showed that there was neither anything suspect nor dishonourable in the plaintiff having acquired the apartment in Geneva, Switzerland in 2005; nor was there she remiss in disclosing to the concerned authorities the purchase of the apartment along with the source of funds.

"Instead, through the offending tweets, he (Gokhale) went on a tirade alleging and insinuating that the plaintiff and her husband had acquired the apartment through ill begotten wealth," the bench said.

In its judgment, the bench also felt this court also gets the clear impression that Gokhale was making roving allegations against the plaintiff and her husband. "What is quite evident is that he was actually targeting the plaintiff's husband...insinuating financial impropriety," it said.

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Published 01 July 2024, 12:47 IST

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