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Delhi HC dismisses Jindal’s plea to restrain Zee News

MUMBAI: Two separate cases were disposed of by two different courts in Delhi, both relating to the row between Zee News and Naveen Jindal.

While the Delhi High Court refused to grant Jindal’s plea for a blanket order restraining Zee Media’s news channels from airing news reports which were allegedly defamatory in their content, a Delhi Metropolitan court dismissed the defamation case filed against industrialist and Congress MP Jindal by Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary.

The Delhi High Court justice VK Shali disposed off Jindal’s plea saying that he and his company, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL), “have not been able to satisfy that they have got a prima facie good case”.

The court, however, directed Zee News to follow the guidelines of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), as per which they would be required to obtain the views of Jindal and JSPL in case they intend to televise any programme pertaining to him or his companies.

“The publications may be inaccurate, not fully or substantially true or may be distorted or may be offending sensibilities of the person against whom such allegations are made or may be to his annoyance but that is not to be the ground to muzzle them altogether. It is a common knowledge that while the elections are on, all kinds of accusations and counter-accusations are bound to fly thick and fast in all directions of which a person must not complain unless and until the allegations against him are per se defamatory,” the court said.

Justice Shali also said that to restrain Zee at this stage from pre-telecasting its programme or news ‘would not only be gagging the right to freedom of press but also gagging of the public to know about a candidate’ who is to be elected.

The court added, “I do not prima facie find that except that there may be incorrect statements or inaccurate statements which are made by the defendants in its televised reporting or which may be not to the liking of the plaintiff or which may be causing annoyance to him are not per se defamatory.”

Meanwhile, hearing on the case filed by Chaudhary, Metropolitan Magistrate Dheeraj Mittal dismissed the defamation case against Jindal and others saying that the statement made by the accused cannot be said to be defamatory in nature.

The court was hearing a plea by Chaudhary seeking action against Jindal and others for allegedly making a false statement against him at a press conference held in October 2012.

In the order delivered last week, a copy of which was made available on Wednesday, the magistrate stated, “This court is of opinion that the statements made by the accused in the press conference were not made with criminal intent/knowledge of harming the reputation of the complainant. Rather they were in the form of information regarding the incidents/events that had taken place between the complainant and the accused people.”

Chaudhary and Zee Business editor Samir Ahluwalia were booked in a case for their alleged role in attempting to ‘extort’ Rs 100 crore from Jindal’s company in exchange for not filing news reports linking his firm to the coal blocks allocation.

Jindal had released a CD which reportedly featured footage in which the Zee editors were trying to strike a deal with his company officials, telling them that their TV news channel would not air negative stories on the Jindal Group if the money was paid to them.