SC stays defamation proceedings against Arvind Kejriwal till Mar 11

New Delhi, Feb 26 (UNI) The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the defamation proceedings going on in the trial court against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for his alleged retweet against the BJP IT cell, till March 11.

A bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta stayed the summons issued to Kejriwal by the Trial court and adjourned the matter till March 11.

Kejriwal had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging a February 5 order of the Delhi High Court which had refused to quash the summons issued by the Trial court against him in a defamation suit for re-tweeting defamatory content against the BJP’s IT cell.

The summons was issued by the Trial court in a defamation case lodged against him for retweeting a video on social media platform ‘X’ making certain allegations related to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT Cell.

Appearing for Kejriwal, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said that the complaint against the Chief Minister was based solely on a retweet and that the original complaint was withdrawn. The same complaint was filed again after nine months, Singhvi said. “It’s a case of defamation just for retweeting on X.’

Even the pre-summoning evidence was recorded, Singhvi said but then the Suit was withdrawn. The complaint was filed again nine months after the incident, it was suppressed,

After Kejriwal’s lawyer admitted that the retweet was a mistake, the court asked the complainant whether he was agreeable to withdraw the case and to close it. The court also directed the trial court not to take up the matter till March 11.

Showing his surprise, Dr Singhvi said, “It’s a case of an exact retweet. No addition, no deletion,” Singhvi said. The technical point of the complaint was added in the re-filed petition

Justice Khanna said, when it comes to retweets, there may be two ways to look at it: ‘One is an endorsement. If it is an endorsement, then it may have its consequences. The other way to look at it is, you found something on the internet or the website and you are just sharing that information.”

“That’s the precise point to be decided,” Singhvi said, “Unfortunately, the high court has taken the first view of retweets as endorsements.”

“Dr Singhvi, to prove the point one has to lead the evidence.’

Justice Khanna said, “ For a layperson, whether it is the first one or the second one, will be a matter that has to be determined based on evidence.”

Dr Singhvi said, “There’s no problem in admitting that this was a mistake if he had known that these would be the consequences.”

The bench asked the complainant if he would be amenable to closing the case because of Kejriwal’s admission that his retweet was a mistake.

Advocate Raghav Awasthi, representing the complainant, he will seek instructions before agreeing to close the case.

Dr Singhvi requested the court for an adjournment of the case before the trial court, saying that “They are prosecuting him very fast, in the context of elections.’

Justice Khanna relaxed the norms and said, Kejriwal need not appear in court for now, given the office he occupied.

He allowed the complainant’s lawyer to ‘seek instructions’ on the issue of closing the case and posted the matter to March 11.

The case pertains to a matter in which a defamation suit was filed against Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal for retweeting a video by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee’s tweet on ‘X’ (formerly, Twitter), claiming that one Vikas Sankrityan alias Vikas Pandey offered Rs 50 lakh through a middleman to one Mahavir Prasad to withdraw allegations that the BJP IT Cell spreads fake news.

Pandey, a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the founder of social media page ‘I Support Narendra Modi’ lodged a complaint against Kejriwal for retweeting Rathee ‘s video.

A defamation suit was filed against Kejriwal The Delhi High Court in this case held that each retweet of defamatory content on social media constitutes ‘publication’ for the purposes of the offence of defamation under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The court said, that the extent of harm caused, would depend on the influence and reach of the individual. The defamatory content if retweeted by an individual with negligible followers or limited influence, the impact on the complainant’s reputation may be less severe.

The High Court Bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma while dismissing Kejriwal’s plea, said that the criminal liability for retweeting is up to the aggrieved person to determine which retweet caused more harm to their reputation and credibility within society.

The court said that since it is the chief minister’s social media account, the following will be more, any retweet from such a figure amounts to a form of ‘public endorsement or acknowledgment will have a greater impact’. As a public figure with political standing, Kejriwal was also presumed to be aware of the potential impact of his retweets on public perception, the court said, and also underscored the difficulty in erasing reputational injury from public memory.

The High Court said retweeting defamatory content, even with a minimal following could attract Penal action under Section 499 of the IPC.

The HC cautioned against retweeting defamatory posts without due diligence and care and said, It has far-reaching consequences.

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