SC Asks Gujarat Trial Court To Stop Proceeding On Defamation Case Filed By Jay Shah On The Wire
On March 15, the Supreme Court (SC) asked the Gujarat Trail Court to not to proceed with the defamation case filed by Jay Shah, who is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah’s son, against the news website The Wire.
Jay Shah filed a criminal defamation case against the website in October 2017 after the website published an article which alleged that according to the filings with the Registrar of Companies, Jay Shah’s firm’s turnover grew by 16,000 times after Prime Minister Modi came into power and his father was elevated to the post of party president.
The SC has granted partial relief to The Wire journalist till April 12.
SC tells trial court to stop proceeding with the case
Jay Shah had filed a defamation case against The Wire in October 2017. Following this, the website moved the Gujarat High Court to nullify the case. However, in January, the Gujarat High Court refused to do so saying that the report was prima facie defamatory and the accused- the journalist who wrote the article, website’s founding directors, website’s founding editor and managing editor – would have to face the trail. After the suit was filed on 9 October 2017, the court initiated proceedings against them under Code of Criminal Procedure’s (CrPC) Section 202 (to inquire into a case to decide whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding).
Senior Advocate N K Kaul, appearing for Jay Shah, said that The Wire story was a “manufactured story, scurrilous reporting” and was meant to damage Shah’s reputation. He added “The reporting was part of a design.”
Even though the trial court was told to halt proceeding with the case, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Dipak Mishra criticised the “irresponsible reporting” of the matter. Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra said, “we expect the media should be responsible, electronic media should be more responsible.”
CJI Dipak Mishra said, ”I have told many times about freedom of speech and expression. We are not going to gag the media.The question of gagging the media does not arise. But the press should be more responsible.”
Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of The Wire tweeted that the judgement was in favour of “media freedom”.
A promising day for media freedom, Supreme Court restrains further proceedings in Jay Shah criminal defamation case against @thewire_in. Our petition to quash the same listed for hearing on April 12.
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) March 15, 2018
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal who appeared for the news website argued in the court that the portal was just asking relevant questions to Shah. The Indian Express reported that Sibal said, ”If journalism is going to be throttled like this, no journalist can ask questions.”
Why was the case filed?
In the article, it was alleged that Jay Shah’s company, Temple Enterprise Private Ltd.’s turnover saw an exponential increase from just Rs 50,000 to a staggering Rs 80,00,00,000 in a single year.
According to the article, the 16,000 times increase in the revenue reportedly came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election and his father Amit Shah’s appointment as the party president.
Following this article, in a press conference held in October, 2017, BJP leader and Union Minister Piyush Goyal said, “ Mr. Jay Shah will file criminal defamation suit of Rs. 100 crore against author (of article), editor and owner of news website The Wire.” He also added, “We reject any allegation sought to be made against Mr. Jay Shah or any of our leaders. Mr. Jay Shah will file civil and criminal prosecution for defamation in Ahmedabad Court.”