The Bombay High Court on Monday refused to restrain Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik from making statements or publishing social media posts against Narcotics Control Bureau Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede and his family members, reported Bar and Bench.
A single-judge bench of Justice Madhav Jamdar passed the order on a defamation suit filed by Wankhede’s father Dhyandev Wankhede. He had filed for damages of Rs 1.25 crore for the comments Malik made about his son.
He had also sought a temporary injunction restraining Malik from making any statements against Sameer Wankhede. The court had reserved its order on interim relief on November 12.
“Although plaintiff has right to privacy, the defendant has right to freedom of speech and expression, there has to be balancing of fundamental rights,” the High Court said.
Malik has levelled several allegations against Sameer Wankhede, who until November 5 had been investigating the Mumbai cruise ship drugs case, involving Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan. In one of his claims, the minister alleged that Sameer Wankhede had produced a forged birth certificate to get his job under the Scheduled Caste category.
On Monday, the High Court said that it cannot pass a blanket order against the Nationalist Congress Party leader as “at the prima face stage, it cannot be said allegations are totally false”, reported Live Law.
However, the court held that Malik should verify the allegations against Wankhede before making public statements or publishing social media posts about them.
The court order also stated that Malik’s allegations appeared to be motivated by “malice and animosity”, as he started making them since October 14, after the arrest of his son-in-law in a drugs case.
However, the High Court ruled out putting an injunction on his comments or social media posts.
Malik has accused Sameer Wankhede of being part of an extortion racket linked to drug cases against Bollywood actors. Malik has also alleged that Wankhede was part of a plan made by Bharatiya Janata Party leader to kidnap Aryan Khan.
Following the allegations, Dhyandev Wankhede had filed the defamation suit. He claimed that Malik, through press releases, interviews and Twitter, has made “tortious and defamatory remarks” about his son.
On November 9, Malik told the Bombay High Court that the defamation suit filed by Dhyandev Wankhede was an attempt to cover up the irregularities committed by the officer.
At the next hearing, the Maharashtra minister had told the court that he had “reasonably verified” the documents and information pertaining to Sameer Wankhede before posting them on social media.
The High Court had earlier held that Sameer Wankhede was a “public officer” and his actions can be examined by anyone. The bench had added that Sameer Wankhede needed to prove that the tweets posted by Malik – which Dhyandev Wankhede has called defamatory – are false.