A Delhi court on Friday issued fresh summons to the BBC, non-profit body Wikimedia and digital library Internet Archive in a defamation case related to a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, reported the Live Law.
The defamation complaint, filed by Bharatiya Janata Party member Binay Kumar Singh, has alleged that even though the documentary has not been officially released in India, a Wikipedia page provides links to watch it and that the content is still available on Internet Archive.
Wikimedia Foundation funds the Wikipedia website. Both Wikimedia and Internet Archive are American companies, while the BBC is a British media organisation.
On May 3, when the court had first issued the summons, lawyers of the two foreign entities, based in the United States and the United Kingdom, had said that it does not have the jurisdiction to deal with the defamation case against them.
Additional District Judge Ruchika Singla had noted that according to rules of the Hague Convention and the Government of India, summons or notices in foreign countries can be effected only through the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, reported The Hindu.
Hence, the fresh summons on Friday were issued through the Union Ministry of Law and Justice after noting that both were foreign entities.
The BBC had released the first episode of the two-part documentary India: The Modi Question on January 17. The documentary showed that a team sent by the British government to inquire into the 2002 Gujarat riots had found that Modi, who was then the state’s chief minister, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence.
Official records show that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the riots.
The documentary also featured a former senior diplomat, one of the investigators sent by the United Kingdom government, who said that the violence had been planned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The documentary had drawn sharp reactions from the ruling BJP government. On January 21, Centre had directed YouTube and Twitter to remove links to the documentary from its platform. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had called the documentary “politics by other means”.
In his plea, Singh alleged that the documentary contains defamatory and baseless allegations against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Modi. He has sought directions from the court to restrain BBC, Wikipedia and Internet Archive from publishing the documentary.
He has also asked the court to pass a direction asking the BBC, Wikimedia, and Internet Archive to tender an unconditional apology to the RSS and VHP and pay Rs 10 lakh in damages.