The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the petition of news website The Wire and its journalists in a criminal defamation case against them by Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah for allegedly publishing a defamatory article. The top court’s bench of Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah listed the matter for hearing on August 27, PTI reported.
Two cases – one criminal defamation case and the other a civil lawsuit of Rs 100 crore – had been filed against the website by Jay Shah, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for the petitioners, told the court. He also informed the court that the Gujarat High Court had refused to invalidate the defamation complaint, following which the petitioners decided to approach the Supreme Court.
The criminal defamation case against The Wire was filed in October 2017 after it published a story alleging that the revenues of Jay Shah’s company had grown massively within a year of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party coming to power in 2014. Amit Shah was the president of the BJP during that time. Jay Shah has also filed another civil defamation suit, seeking Rs 100 crore in damages from the website.
Sibal also told the court that in another civil suit, the Gujarat High Court had passed a gag order against the website, prohibiting it from publishing any articles related to Jay Shah’s business. In July 2018, the Supreme Court had stayed criminal defamation proceedings against the news website, the lawyer said, adding that written statements of the parties involved had been filed.
On Friday, the top court’s bench asked Sibal about the orders passed by the lower court and the High Court. “What is the stage of trial [in the criminal defamation complaint]?” the bench asked. The lawyer, representing the petitioners, said that criminal proceedings were earlier stayed by the top court. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, counsel for Jay Shah, said that the cases should be listed for hearing.
The complaint had been filed against Rohini Singh, the journalist who had reported the story, founding editors of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and MK Venu, along with the Managing Editor Monobina Gupta, Public Editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.
In April last year, the top court had, on two occasions, asked Jay Shah and The Wire to consider settling a civil defamation case that the businessman had filed. At the same time, it had also said that “there cannot be gagging of the press”.