"Not to be construed as a media gag order": Bombay High Court directs takedown of video content against Shilpa Shetty

  • Ratna Singh
  • 10:49 PM, 30 Jul 2021

The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered removal of some video content alleged to be defamatory against actress Shilpa Shetty in connection with the ongoing proceedings against her husband, Mr. Raj Kundra in cases related to alleged production of pornographic content.

The bench made some significant observations regarding the right to privacy and press freedom under Constitutional Law in a plea moved by Actor Shilpa Shetty seeking permanent and mandatory injunction against various media houses/news channels restraining them to post, publish & upload of any defamatory content.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice GS Patel while passing an order for defendants to produce affidavits as replies by next hearing noted that,


“No part of this order be construed as a gag on the media. The fact I am not passing an ad interim order should not be construed to mean that you've given up your case.”

Today, during the course of hearing the Bench questioned the Plaintiff’s Counsel Senior Advocate Birendra Saraf put forth interesting arguments viz. the Right to Privacy for Shetty. 

Bench asked Saraf as to what they found defamatory that they had to file suit against 29 defendants. The defendants include top media outlets including NDTV, India TV, Free Press Journal amongst others.

“Your entire case that Google, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram must exercise editorial content is very dangerous. If there is a statement that is attributed by NDTV via Police source which says that "there is a suspicion" ....how is this defamatory?” - asked the Bench

In this context, Senior Advocate Saraf referred to an article where it stated that,

“Crime Branch is inclined to think that she is trying to hide the facts, where do they get all this from? Suspected of destruction of evidence, there is no source to this. How can they say that? This is a very serious allegation.”

To this, the bench replied, “You know there is a very thin line, this is now at every level pre sensation. You choose a life in public eye, part of this will come with the territory. People are interested in you. Then if somebody says that you had an argument and broke down, what's defamatory about it," 

“The fact that you perceived that you are going to be hurt, doesn't make it defamatory. There is a law on this,” Bench added.

Mr. Saraf further contended that in the KS Puttaswamy Judgment, the Hon’ble SC has established the law on right to privacy.

“Where there is a "Judicial delineation" of the limits to what is not responsible Journalism, I think that comes dangerously close to a subjective repproach to freedom of speech and I am not inclined to go there,” noted the Bench.

The bench further observed that, “In your particular case, if something happens b/w a Husband & Wife in presence of outsiders, voices were raised or that one party broke down & cried, I am not 100% sure I might be wrong that this would lead to Puttaswamy case.”

The matter will be now be heard next on 20th, September.

Previously, Actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra wife of Businessman Raj Kundra had moved Bombay High Court seeking permanent and mandatory injunction against various media houses/news channels restraining them to post, publish & upload of any defamatory content, as they were completely false, erroneous, derogatory and defamatory in nature and have caused irreparable harm, loss and damage to her reputation before the public at large.

The Plaintiff Shilpa Shetty had filed the present suit through Parinam Law AssociatesMumbai.
They have stated in the suit that the Defendants have uploaded false, malicious, unsubstantiated imputations, allegations and statements against the Plaintiff through their respective websites.

The plaintiff contended the following in her suit –

  • The Defendants have spoken/ posted/ published/ uploaded defamatory statements with an intent to increase their readership by sensationalizing news and reporting false, incorrect and wrong statements concerning the Plaintiff and the criminal investigation that is ongoing against the Plaintiff’s husband, Raj Kundra.
  • The Defendants have invaded the privacy of the Plaintiff by interfering into her personal life and publishing incorrect, derogatory, false defamatory statements concerning the Plaintiff’s personal life and relationship with her husband.
  • The Plaintiff is being painted as a criminal and a woman who has abandoned her husband due to the criminal investigation ongoing against her husband. The Defendants by publishing these incorrect, derogatory, false defamatory statements have not only defamed the Plaintiff and maligned her image but they have also resulted in irreparably damaging her reputation and lowering it before the right-thinking members of the society.
  • The Plaintiff states that due to these defamatory imputations, allegations and statements which have no factual basis, or any cogent/clear evidence, irreparable loss, harm and injury is being caused to the Plaintiff’s reputation. Hence, the Plaintiff has been constrained to file the present Suit.  

Litigious Background:


Businessman Raj Kundra had moved Bombay High Court challenging his “illegal” arrest in the case of creation of pornographic films and publishing them through apps.

Yesterday, Senior Advocate Aabad Ponda argued before the Bombay High Court that his arrest was a thorough mockery of the Arnesh Kumar Judgment and that it was in sheer violation of Section 41A of the CRPC.

Mumbai police had arrested Kundra on July 19 and was to be in police custody till July 27.

On Tuesday, the Magistrate further extended the Judicial Custody for 14 days.

The complaint was registered under Sections 354(c), 292, 293, 420, r/w 34 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 66(E), 67 & 67A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Sections 2(g), 3, 4, 6 & 7 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986.

It is pertinent to note that in the said F.I.R. a Charge Sheet had been filed on 03.04.2021 before the Learned Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Court at Esplanade.

 

Case Title: Shilpa Shetty Kundra v Clapping Hands Private Limited & Ors