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Delhi HC refers Gautam Gambhir's defamation suit against Punjab Kesari to mediation

IANS | February 26, 2024 02:08 PM

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Monday referred former India cricketer and BJP MP Gautam Gambhir's defamation lawsuit against Hindi daily Punjab Kesari seeking damages of Rs 2 crore, to mediation.

The lawsuit, which sought to prevent the newspaper and its reporters from publishing any allegedly defamatory content against Gambhir, saw a potential resolution pathway as both parties appeared inclined towards an amicable settlement.

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma made the decision to refer the case to mediation following submissions by Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, representing Gambhir.

Dehadrai suggested that the dispute might be resolved amicably, prompting the court to explore mediation as a means to formalise the terms of any potential settlement.

Gambhir had filed a fresh application seeking to withdraw the lawsuit, citing the possibility of a friendly settlement between the involved parties.

The court has now scheduled the mediation for February 29, with a follow-up hearing set for March 12.

Last year, the court had refused to pass any interim injunction order in favour of Gambhir.

Dehadrai had submitted before the court that the newspaper has been targeting Gambhir and that it is not the case of fair or objective reporting.

"The articles are deeply malicious. This is perhaps at the behest of someone else, " he had said.

Even though it has been held in various judgments that the opinions and views of the concerned person must be taken before publishing any article, Gambhir's opinions were not sought by Punjab Kesari newspaper or its reporters, Dehadrai had argued.

Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, who was hearing the matter had orally told Dehadrai: "You are a public servant, you need not be so sensitive."

To which, the advocate responded that it could possibly be that two reporters in the same style keep attacking me?

"That he is busy with IPL, he is a useless politician who shouldn't be taken seriously. It's disturbing, any innocent man's reputation is targeted in this fashion, " Dehadrai had said.

"Any public person should be thick skinned...Nowadays, judges should also be thick skinned, " Justice Singh had said.

The judge, saying that that prima facie it was satisfied that the matter requires consideration and summons must be issued against the defendants, had issued notice on Gambhir's application seeking interim relief and listed it for hearing in October.

Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao, who had appeared for the newspaper and its editor in chief, was also told by Justice Singh that "if you read the articles, in the prima facie opinion, the reporter is behind this person. Some of the words and sentences that he has used are not proper for your publication."

Gambhir has taken legal action against the paper, its editor Aditya Chopra, and correspondents Amit Kumar and Imran Khan, alleging that they abused their journalistic freedom by publishing a series of malicious and defamatory articles specifically aimed at him.

He has referred to several reports as evidence to support his claim that the paper "distorted" its stories in a "misleading" manner.

One of the reports even went as far as drawing a comparison between him and the mythical demon 'Bhasmasur', as argued in the lawsuit.

Gambhir has asserted that these reports construct a fabricated and highly-damaging narrative about his performance and integrity as a parliamentarian, misleading the readers and tarnishing his reputation.

In the suit, it was highlighted that the reports unjustly depicted him as a person with casteist beliefs and as an arrogant politician.

"It is the respectful case of the plaintiff that the pattern of these defamatory publications is indicative of a willful campaign launched by the defendants to lower the reputation and standing of the plaintiff in the eyes of his constituents, supporters, and the public at large. The defendants undertook no effort to confirm or corroborate the veracity of their publication, which further points out their collective malaise against the plaintiff, " the suit said.

Gambhir had demanded that a compensation of Rs 2 crore be awarded to charitable organisations as damages. Additionally, he has appealed for an unconditional apology from the defendants, which should be published in all newspapers, including digital versions, circulated by Punjab Kesari.

Furthermore, the cricketer-turned-politician had urged for directives to be issued to the paper, mandating the retraction of every defamatory publication made against him.

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