The Bombay HC on July 30 ruled that “reports based on police sources can’t be termed defamatory”. The High Court’s was hearing the Shilpa Shetty defamation case. For the unversed, Shilpa Shetty had taken to the Bombay High Court and had filed a defamation suit worth Rs. 25 crores in the connection with the reporting of the recent Raj Kundra pornography scandal.
On July 29, actress and businesswoman Shilpa Shetty had taken to the Bombay High Court for a defamation case against media personnel and outlets. The plea was filed against the media outlets for “false reporting” and maligning Shetty’s image in the ongoing pornography case which has her husband Raj Kundra in the front and center of it.
“Line between Freedom of Press and Right to Privacy Has to be Balanced”
Shetty had brought in the likes of NDTV, Free Press, Clapping Hands, Peeping Moon, Facebook, Instagram and several other (29) outlets and media publishers. Justice Gautam S. Patel while hearing each and every account of “false reporting” by media outlets observed-
“The line between freedom of press & right to privacy will have to be balanced. It is possible that freedom of speech may have to be narrowly tailored. But it is not possible to ignore the constitutional pinning of privacy nor to say that if a person is a public figure, that person is deemed to have sacrificed his right to privacy.”
Interim Relief Against Capital TV, Heena Kumawat and Shudh Manoranjan
The bench also passed an interim order about the injunction on the plea of Shilpa Shetty and noted-
“No part of this shall be constructed as a gag on media The defendants other than those who’ve been asked to take down their articles will have to file an affidavit.”
The court granted interim relief against Capital TV, Heena Kumawat and Shudh Manoranjan, a YouTube channel.
Patel noted that Shetty’s plea of having a restrained media will have “chilling effect on the freedom of press” and noted that there’s a limit on “good or bad journalism” as a blanket restrain may come very close to freedom of press.
Reportage based on police sources is not defamatory
The Bombay High Court also noted that certain articles that Shilpa Shetty cited were not defamatory.
“It cannot be like if you (media) are not going to write or say anything nice about me then do not say anything at all. How can this be?”
-the court observed.
Further, certain articles that Shetty had cited around the Raj Kundra pornography scandal including one which claimed that Raj Kundra fought with Shilpa and the latter cried was based on police sources. Justice Patel observed-
“Reportage of something based on what police sources have said is not defamatory. If this had happened in the four walls of your house with no one around then the issue is different. But this has happened in the presence of outsiders. How is this defamation?”
On Facebook, Google and Instagram
Further, in the plea Shetty had also brought Facebook, Google, Instagram and Twitter under the gamut of the defamation suit. On this Justice GS Patel observed-
“Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, these entities are not required in law to engage in any censoring or editorial activity beyond ensuring a compliance with their own terms of service,”
as quoted by Bar and Bench.
In an interesting observation, Justice GS Patel also gave an insight on the life of public figures and the life they choose to lead.
“What is defamatory about saying something about the Shilpa Shetty? What is so special… You choose a life in the public eye, part of this comes in the territory. There is no law on this. Judgments are there… How many times do we have to go with this…?”
-Justice Patel remarked.
The case will now be heard on 20 September.