The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and online news portal The Wire over a criminal defamation case filed against the portal by a JNU professor.
The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia sought response from the Editor and Deputy Editor of The Wire on a petition filed by Professor Amita Singh, Chairperson of the Centre for Study of Law and Governance at JNU.
It further issued notice to the JNU Vice-Chancellor in a limited aspect to verify whether any dossier was submitted at all, to what effect and by whom?
The Apex Court orally remarked that it was hard to see how a case of defamation was made out. However, it proceeded to issue notice after impleading JNU in the appeal.
Singh had moved the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order of March 2023, which had quashed the summons issued by a magistrate court in criminal defamation proceedings initiated by her against The Wire.
The Wire’s report had alleged that Prof Singh had led a group of JNU teachers who compiled a 200-page dossier that termed JNU a “den of organised sex racket”.
According to the report, the dossier was titled ‘Jawaharlal Nehru University: The Den of Secessionism and Terrorism’.
The news report also stated that the dossier was submitted to the JNU administration and that the latter had accused some JNU teachers of encouraging a decadent culture in JNU and of legitimising separatist movements in India.
Earlier in 2016, Singh had filed a criminal defamation case against The Wire and its reporter. In February 2017, a Magistrate court had issued summons in the case. However, seven years later, the matter was still stalled at the stage of framing notice.
The High Court made note of this aspect as well before staying the proceedings before the trial court.
While quashing the summons, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the High Court had noted that the publication did not claim that Singh was involved in any wrongdoing. The Court further noted that the article did not speak of the Professor in any derisive, derogatory or denigrating terms.