The Delhi High Court has lifted the injunction order against an article published in The Caravan magazine in 2011 on Arindam Chaudhuri (pictured above), the director of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management. Justice Manmohan passed the order on February 16. The Caravan said it was publishing the article again on Thursday after seven years.
In February 2011, The Caravan had published a cover story on Chaudhuri titled “Sweet smell of success – How Arindam Chaudhuri made a fortune of the aspirations and insecurities of India’s middle classes”. The institute had filed a Rs 50-crore defamation case against the magazine, citing “grave harassment and injury”.
Besides The Caravan and its proprietors, the defamation suit also named the author of the article Siddhartha Deb, publishing house Penguin – who had published Deb’s book The Beautiful and The Damned, in which the article was a chapter – and Google India, alleging that the tech giant was distributing and giving coverage to the defamatory article.
The case was filed at a civil court in Assam’s Silchar district that granted the IIPM a preliminary injunction and directed the magazine to remove the article concerned from their website.
Following the order, The Caravan filed a petition in the Supreme Court to transfer the case at the Delhi High Court. In August 2011, the top court had stayed the proceedings at the Silchar court.
During the hearing at the Delhi High Court, Chaudhuri’s counsel Nishit Kush contended that the magazine had carried a morphed image of the IIPM director, showing him as a magician to falsely impute his reputation as a scamster, Bar and Bench reported. Kush also argued that the article carried derogatory comments against his client to create a negative image of him among the general public.
The court observed that prima facie the impugned portions in the article are either based on statements made by several persons or based on facts available in public domain. The article also included the author’s personal opinions based on extensive research, the judge said.
“There is no material at this stage to conclude that the stories have been published by the defendants with a reckless disregard for truth or precipitated by actual malice or that the defence of justification/truthfulness/fair comment is one that cannot succeed,” the High Court said.
The judge also referred to a list issued by the Universities Grants Commissions declaring 21 universities fake and “not entitled to confer any degrees”. IIPM was one of the universities on the list.
“It is our belief at The Caravan that we must defend the right of journalists to report on any subjects or persons without undue fear of legal intimidation from powerful entities or organisations that seek to insulate themselves from criticism,” the magazine said in a statement.