British businessman of Pakistani heritage Aneel Mussarat has won a defamation case against Republic Bharat, the Hindi news channel arm of Republic TV, reported Geo TV on Sunday.
Mussarat had moved the London High Court against Republic’s UK broadcaster Worldview Media Network after he was called a “stooge” of the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence in a programme that was broadcast on July 22, 2020.
The show, which also aired in the United Kingdom, accused Mussarat of spreading terror in India, the businessman told the court.
According to Mussarat, his picture was shown alongside an interviewee in the show saying: “I don’t think freedom of expression extends to fraternising with people who are clearly involved in sending terrorists across into India.”
Captions such as “Should Bollywood declare any links to pro-Pakistan, pro-terror, anti-India individuals and groups?” and “Should Bollywood renounce any links with Pakistanis who take a pro-terrorist line?” were also shown alongside Mussarat’s photos with Indian celebrities.
Mussarat told the High Court that the allegations raised in the show caused a serious harm to his reputation, Geo TV reported.
He also submitted that he had no links with the ISI or any terrorist organisations.
After hearing his arguments, Deputy Master of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, Claire Toogood, ruled that there was no evidence to back the channel’s claims that Mussarat was an ISI stooge.
The judge also noted that Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s programme had no evidence to prove that Mussarat was involved in anti-India activities. There was nothing to establish that Mussarat was assisting in terrorist activities against India either, the judge ruled.
The judge accepted that the defamatory words broadcast in the show “had caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation” of Mussarat, Geo TV reported.
The court observed that there was no “realistic” possibility that the news channel would issue an apology to Mussarat.
It, however, awarded legal costs of 37,500 euros (Rs 30,87,700.62) and damages of 10,000 euros (Rs 8,23,386.83) to Mussarat.
The verdict was announced in the absence of the defendant as Republic Bharat did not participate in the court proceedings, according to Geo TV.
In an interview with Geo TV, Mussarat reiterated that he had never been engaged in any terror or illegal activity.
“In July 2020, at the beginning of Covid-19, Republic TV Channel and Arnab Goswami broadcasted multiple TV programmes defaming my character, alleging me of being an ISI agent and spreading terrorism in India,” Mussarat said. “I applied to the Royal Court of justice for vindication. I am glad I have been vindicated and I am thankful to the British justice system.”
According to Geo TV, Mussarat reportedly has close relations with former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and several Bollywood stars. He is also known to have links with the Sharif family, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Yousuf Raza Gilani and former Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood.