The Delhi High Court recently dismissed an application of two senior employees of the Indian Express to strike out their names in a suit filed by Deepak Talwar for publication of a defamatory news item in the newspaper in 2016.
The Court refused to delete the names of Raj Kamal Jha, the chief editor and Unni Rajen Shanker, the editor on grounds that their name being imprinted on the paper raises presumption of liability on the selection of the news items published therein.
Jha and Shanker had applied for the deletion of their names from the array of defendants as they were not the designated editor of the Indian Express. They contended that every edition of the newspaper which is published from different centres has a designated Editor for that edition and in terms of the requirement of the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867, the imprint line of each edition specifically mentions the name of the designated Editor. Thus, the imprint line is a statutory requirement where the names of the defendants figured. Section 7 of the Act creates a rebuttable presumption of responsibility against the designated editor, the designated printer and publisher for the selection of matter published in the newspaper.
Advocate Prabhav Ralli, appearing for Deepak Talwar, contended the frivolous nature of the entire plea taken by the two respondents. He said that the role of Jha and Shanker, who were admittedly the chief editor, and the editor respectively, when the news was published and hence their role in the selection of the item is a triable issue and hence cannot be determined without adducing evidence.
The court said that the content of the plaint has to be taken as a whole and Deepak Talwar must be accorded an opportunity to lead evidence on the role played by each party in the selection of material for publication.
The court relied on a 2002 judgement of the apex court wherein it was held that there is no statutory immunity available to Managing Editor, Resident Editor or Chief Editor and the rebuttable nature of Section 7 of the 1867 Act, thus indicating that someone else may also be held responsible for the selection of news items.
— India Legal Bureau