News website The Wire on Thursday said that the Telangana court order directing it to take down 14 of its allegedly defamatory articles on biotechnology company Bharat Biotech, had been passed without serving any notice about the proceedings.

Editors of the website said that they came to know about the court order from media reports and that the verdict had been passed “without giving The Wire an opportunity to be heard”.

Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin, or its counsels, had not contacted The Wire at any stage, the news website said in a statement signed by three of its editors MK Venu, Siddharth Vardarajan and Sidharth Bhatia.

On Thursday, an additional district judge of the Ranga Reddy district court in Telangana had ordered The Wire to take down the 14 articles within 48 hours. The judge had also restrained the news website from publishing any “defamatory content” about Bharat Biotech, Bar and Bench had reported.

The court passed the order on a Rs 100 crore defamation suit filed by Bharat Biotech against The Wire, its publisher and non-government organisation Foundation for Independent Journalism, the website’s editors Venu, Vardarajan and Bhatia, and nine others who wrote the articles.

On Thursday, The Wire said that the website would challenge the order, adding that the defendants in the case have not yet been served its copy.

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution of India,” The Wire said in its statement. “Like the rest of the media in India, we have published dozens of articles on Bharat Biotech, going back to 2020, in exercise of this right and will resist any attempt to curb freedom of the press.”

Varadarajan, one of the founding editors of the website had said in a tweet earlier on Thursday that Bharat Biotech’s “bullying won’t work”.

Court proceedings

At the hearing, Senior Counsel K Vivek Reddy, appearing for Bharat Biotech, argued that The Wire had published the articles that contained false allegations against the company and its vaccine with an “malicious intent” to undermine its reputation.

He contended that the news portal published the articles on vaccine authorisation and approvals without doing a proper fact check.

The court noted that Bharat Biotech is the only company that has been authorised to manufacture coronavirus vaccines for children between 15 and 18 years. It added that the “defamatory articles” would lead to vaccine hesitancy.