March 10, 2017 4:50:41 am
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has secured a temporary injunction from a Bengaluru court restraining news website The Wire from publishing two articles on him. The court, however, did not elaborate on the legal merits on which the order was issued. Following the ex-parte order, The Wire removed the two articles on March 6.
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The 40th Additional City Civil Court Judge in Bengaluru, Jinaralkar Bheemrao Lagamappa, ordered the temporary injunction against The Wire on March 2 based on two original suits filed by Chandrasekhar, who is also deputy chairman of the NDA in Kerala. The cases were filed under provisions of the Civil Procedure Code —- Order 7, Rule 1 and 2 read with Section 26. In the two suits, Chandrasekhar sought an order directing The Wire to stop “communicating, exhibiting, publishing, distributing providing access to or sending any information or communication’’ that may harm his reputation.
The court, in its brief order issued under Order 39 Rule 1 of CPC, stated that an “ex-parte temporary injunction is granted against the defendants restraining them, their servants, agents, attorneys, successors, executors or assigns from communicating, exhibiting, publishing, distributing, providing access to or sending any information or communication that may be seen/understood as derogatory false or untrue that is likely to cause harm to the reputation of the plaintiff’’.
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While ex-parte orders earlier issued without hearing the media’s arguments usually pertain to further publications on a subject, the cases filed by Chandrasekhar may be the first instance in Karnataka where a website has been restrained from providing access to an article already published.
Chandrasekhar has major investments in media networks through a company he founded and heads, named Jupiter Capital. Jupiter owns another company named Axiscades, which, according to its website is “recognised as the leading partner to the global aerospace and defence industry”. Chandrasekhar is also a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence, which Sachin Rao of Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sangathan mentioned in an article published in The Wire on February 17. The article was taken down after the court order.
The other article to be taken down was by journalist Sandeep Bhushan. Bhushan wrote about television journalist Arnab Goswami’s upcoming venture Republic TV, in which Chandrasekhar is one of the largest investors and is in the board of directors, as reported by The Indian Express on January 13. The piece titled “Arnab’s Republic, Modi’s Ideology” spoke about Republic’s “right-wing bias” and mentioned Chandrasekhar’s investment in it. Bhushan wrote that Chandrasekhar was not only the NDA’s vice-chairman in Kerala, but was elected to the Rajya Sabha with BJP’s help.
The Wire, whose founding editor is senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, removed the two articles on March 6, after Chandrasekhar’s lawyer informed them about the court order. Varadarajan said they took the pieces down in “good faith” without seeing the order. He told The Indian Express that his team would challenge the injunction and that they were on a “very strong ground”.
M S Shyamsundar, Chandrasekhar’s lawyer, said they did not send a notice as the damage was already done. The temporary injunction in such cases was usual, Shyamsundar said, and The Wire can contest it when the case comes up.
The Indian Express sent a questionnaire to Chandrasekhar’s office, asking whether him being part of the parliamentary committee on defence and heading a business which has interests in the same field was not conflict of interest; and how his being an MP and part of the NDA would not affect the objectivity of the media houses in which he has large investments.
Chandrasekhar’s office responded with a statement from him, saying that he has been “targeted by elements in the Congress working with some in the media”. He said he was prepared for these attacks and to fight back. The statement said the court action was not “about a takedown” but “holding those who did this, accountable for their actions.” He added that as the matter is subjudice, he would not comment further.
The case will be heard next on April 4.
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