HC restrains publication of letter alleging plagiarism by historian Vikram Sampath

Mr. Sampath has sought ₹2 crore as damages for the loss of reputation following ‘motivated smear campaign’

Updated - February 18, 2022 08:14 pm IST

Published - February 18, 2022 08:10 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Delhi High Court on Friday restrained publication of any defamatory material, including a letter written by academicians Audrey Truschke, Ananya Chakrabarti and Rohit Chopra to the Royal Historical Society in London alleging plagiarism by historian Vikram Sampath in relation to his work on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Justice Amit Bansal issued summons to Ms. Truschke, Ms. Chakrabarti, Mr. Chopra, freelance journalist Abhishek Baxi, and academician Ashok Swain who were arrayed as defendants in the suit for defamation filed by Mr. Sampath.

“The continued publication of the letter has been causing considerable damage to the plaintiff’s reputation and career. Balance of convenience is also in his favour and irreparable damage will be caused if the injunction is not granted,” the High Court said.

Mr. Sampath, author of a two-volume biography of Savarkar and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London, has sought ₹2 crore as damages for the loss of reputation.

On February 11, 2022, a letter was sent by Ms. Truschke, Ms. Chakrabarti, and Mr. Chopra to the Royal Historical Society in which serious allegations of plagiarism were made against Mr. Sampath, with respect to his two-volume biography of Savarkar.

Mr. Sampath said that Mr. Baxi and Mr. Swain took to micro blogging site Twitter to post defamatory tweets against him on February 13 which directly hit his professional reputation. He claimed that the letter is being quoted by various “unscrupulous elements” on Twitter and the same was part of a “motivated smear campaign”.

Mr. Sampath’s counsel termed the allegations of plagiarism baseless as the piece contained due citations, attributions and footnotes.

Mr. Sampath alleged that letter was part of an “international smear campaign” in order to discredit him “because he has shown the academic courage and gumption to challenge the prevailing narrative around a historical figure like V. D. Savarkar”.

Mr. Sampath further said that he has been facing malicious, defamatory statements for the last five months.

“There is a systematic pattern of maligning for vested and ideological reasons. Why this instance is the last straw on the camel’s back is it prejudices the Plaintiff (Mr Sampath) irrevocably especially in academic circles where plagiarism is viewed very seriously,” his plea said.

“This would close all doors forever in academic careers, possibly cancel his fellowship at the Royal Historical Society and also force many publishers to withdraw his books and cancel future contracts. In effect, if this letter is allowed to go free pass, then it will permanently destroy the Plaintiff’s career and reputation built painstakingly over 15 years,” it added.

Twitter’s counsel said the platform will take down specific tweets in relation to the letter if ordered by the court. The high court will now hear the case on April 1.

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