The Delhi high court has directed RTI activist Saket Gokhale to take down his tweets against former Indian Assistant Secretary-General to the United Nations within 24 hours.
The single judge bench of Justice C Hari Shankar found Gokhale’s tweets against ex-envoy Lakshmi Puri to be prima facie defamatory. He had called her “black money hoarder" in connection with a disproportionate assets allegation.
The court said that Gokhale will have to take down his posts, failing which Twitter Inc has been directed to take down the tweets on the given URLs. Issuing summons in the main suit, the court has also restrained Gokhale from posting any further defamatory material against Puri and directed him to file his written submissions and denial affidavit, if any.
The high court in its hearing had asked whether any “Tom, Dick and Harry could write anything vilifying against anyone on the Internet to damage someone’s reputation." A bench of Justice C Harishankar reserved the order after hearing the submission of both sides
During the course of the hearing, the Court asked advocate Sarim Naved, whether his client Gokhale was willing to remove tweets to which the advocate replied in the negative. During the course of the hearing, the Court termed tweets by Gokhale as “nonsense" and suggested he remove them. However, Gokhale’s counsel said his client has refused to delete them.
The court asked as to how Gokhale can be vilifying people like this. Thereafter, the court sought to know from Gokhale’s counsel whether his client had approached any official authority or sought clarification from the plaintiff before tweeting anything against Puri. The response of Gokhale was negative.
The court also sought to know whether the law permits a voter, who had a grievance against a retired public servant, to publish any accusation on social media platforms without taking any clarification. The Court noted that Gokhale’s lawyer had not been able to cite any judgment to support its claim, however, he has referred to Lok Prahari’s judgment.
Advocate Naved has apprised the Court according to Supreme Court judgment in Lok Prahari, assets of candidate and spouse should be a matter of public record. Naved said that as a voter, he has to be satisfied that income is accounted for. Unhappy with his response, the High Court said that Gokhale must go to the Election Commission for his satisfaction. One must do a due diligence exercise before he throws mud at someone, the Court remarked.