The Delhi High Court on September 27, 2022, ordered Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its five leaders to refrain from posting any defamatory or factually incorrect tweets, re-tweets, hashtags, videos of press conferences against Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena and his family.
The order came on a defamation suit filed by Mr. Saxena against AAP and five of its leaders including Sanjay Singh, Atishi, Durgesh Pathak, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Jasmine Shah — for levelling “false” and “derogatory” allegations against him.
The controversy erupted when AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak, during a Delhi Assembly in late August, accused Mr. Saxena of corruption involving the change of demonetised notes in 2016 during his tenure as head of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). AAP has alleged a ₹1,400-crore scam and demanded a CBI probe against Mr. Saxena.
On Tuesday, the high court said, “In the present case, the plaintiff [Mr. Saxena], being a Constitutional Authority, cannot meet the personal attacks being made by the defendants against him by taking resort to social media platforms.”
Justice Amit Bansal, in a detailed order, directed AAP and its five leaders to “delete/remove all the defamatory or factually incorrect tweets, re-tweets, hashtags, videos of press conferences/interviews, comments, captions and taglines” against Mr. Saxena and his daughter published on the social media platforms such as Twitter.
Justice Bansal remarked that on a “prima facie” view, the various statements, interviews, press conferences, tweets made by AAP and its leader are defamatory.
“The same have been made in a reckless manner, without any factual verification, in order to tarnish the reputation of the plaintiff,” Justice Bansal remarked.
“It cannot be gainsaid that reputation of a person is earned after years and the same cannot be tarnished by any other individual in a casual manner. The damage caused to the reputation of an individual is immediate and far-reaching on the internet,” the judge added.
In the event, AAP and its leaders do not take down the defamatory tweets, videos which were highlighted by Mr. Saxena within 48 hours, the high court ordered the social media companies to remove them from their respective platforms.
Mr. Saxena had contended before the high court that AAP and its leaders have launched a barrage of “personal attacks” against him by making unsubstantiated and baseless allegations he has indulged in corruption and money laundering to the tune of Rs. one thousand four hundred crores at the time of demonetisation in November 2016, while he was the Chairman of KVIC.
The high court said that there was nothing on record to show any acts of corruption to the tune of ₹1,400 crore.
The AAP leaders had also claimed that Mr. Saxena’s daughter was assigned a contract worth ₹80 crore from KVIC for designing a lounge, while he was the Chairman of KVIC, a fact is admitted by Mr. Saxena.
However, the high court pointed out that KVIC, in its letter dated September 2, 2022, has clarified that no money was paid to the daughter of Mr. Saxena for the professional services rendered by her.