News portal Newslaundry has filed a plea in the Delhi High Court challenging a single-judge order which held that prima facie findings were in favour of TV Today Group in a defamation case filed against the website, Live Law reported on Thursday.
In October last year, media conglomerate TV Today Network, which owns news channels India Today and Aaj Tak among others, had filed a Rs 2 crore defamation and copyright infringement suit, accusing Newslaundry, a media watchdog, of “uploading infringing, defamatory, commercially disparaging material on their own website”.
In July, a Delhi High Court single-judge bench of Justice Asha Menon had held that on prima facie basis, the case appeared to be in favour of the TV Today group. However, the judge had refused interim relief to the TV Today group, which sought directions to take down Newslaundry videos containing clips from shows aired on India Today and Aaj Tak.
Newslaundry has now filed a petition before a division bench challenging the Justice Menon’s observations on the prima facie findings. Meanwhile, TV Today Group has filed a plea against her decision to not take down the Newslaundry videos.
While hearing the matter on Thursday, bench of Justices Vibhu Bakhru and Amit Mahajan said that both the petitions will be heard on November 21, Live Law reported.
The media watchdog has contended in its plea that the single-judge order did not appreciate that their content falls within the realm of “fair criticism” and “satire” and was not meant to defame TV Today.
The lawyer representing Newslaundry told the court on Thursday that the earlier order could be the basis for an “extremely hypersensitive approach” in matters related to injunction.
To this, Justice Bakhru observed orally that court passes such orders in injunction matters everyday, and Newslaundry should not appeal on the basis of perceptions, Live Law reported.
Newslaundry lawyers also claimed that the videos that TV Today placed on record before the single-judge bench were “completely misleading”.
In reply, Justice Bakhru said: “Misleading is placed on record doesn’t tie your hands in putting the correct material on record.”
The case and single-judge order
Besides Rs 2 crore in damages, the suit filed by the TV Today group sought an order to have 34 articles on the Newslaundry website and 65 videos on the portal’s YouTube channel removed.
The media conglomerate had also asked the Delhi High Court to restrain Newslaundry and its journalists from “writing, tweeting or publishing” anything defamatory about its channels, anchors and management.
Meanwhile, Newslaundry had defended its content arguing that it is a media watchdog portal.
“We are an organisation with a philosophy where we report and critique the media,” its counsel had said during hearings before the single-judge bench. “They want to criticise everyone and want others to be thick skinned but when we criticise them, they become thin skinned.”
In her order, Justice Asha Menon had observed there was neither any balance of convenience in favour of the network nor was irreparable loss being caused.
Balance of convenience is based on the merits of the case – a comparison of which of the parties will suffer greater hardship – in cases of copyright infringement that can cause irreparable damage to the business concerned.
The court can pass an interim injunction order if it feels that there is balance of convenience in favour of the plaintiff.
The judge had also said that the matter should be treated as a commercial dispute and discussed under broadcast rights rather than copyright laws. She had noted that “dissemination of a spectrum of information” by many players would lead to a better informed society.