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Delhi High Court restrains pro-farmer group from uploading matter against AajTak on social media

Hrishikesh Baruah, Counsel for the plaintiff submitted that while the plaintiff is not certain of the exact legal status of defendant no.1 at this stage, it appears that the said defendant named Tractor2Twitter is, as per its own description, an online community of persons interested in the protests taking place across the country against the new farm bills.

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The Delhi High Court has restrained @Tractor2twitr, which claims to be an online community of persons interested in Farmers’ Protests, from uploading posts against news channel AajTak on its social media accounts. The order was given by Justice Rekha Palli.

Aaj Tak has complained before the court that it had been “constrained to file the present suit against defendants, on account of the persistent, malicious and defamatory campaign started by defendant nos. 1 across its multiple social media platforms against the plaintiff, its news channel Aaj Tak and its employees.”

In the plaint, advocate Hrishikesh Baruah, counsel for the plaintiff, submitted that on May 30, 2021 around 6:29 AM, the defendant no.1 released, on its official Telegram channel, seven posters under the message ‘Graphics for 30th May Graphics’ that contained the AajTak logo with an interdictory circle/‘No’ or Prohibited sign interposed on it and calling the AajTak news channel anti-farmer, venomous, toxic, communal.

He further submitted that with these messages and posters, the defendant nos. 1 to 3 have been maliciously asking their subscribers and followers to use a derogatory hashtag that malignantly uses the AajTak name and share, tweet and re-tweet messages that utilise this hashtag to spread its usage. He has drawn my attention to certain tweets, contents whereof have also been reproduced in the plaint.

He submitted that notwithstanding the fact that the allegations against the plaintiff, Aaj Tak and its employees contained in these defamatory tweets, messages and posts created at the instigation of the defendant nos. 1 to 3 are totally baseless and highly defamatory, the number of likes, comments, tweets and retweets of these defamatory posters and messages, as well as the use of the offending hashtag, continue to increase by passage of time, thereby lowering the image of the plaintiff company.

The plaintiff before the court has said that it (Aaj Tak) is part of the reputed India Today Group, a multimedia conglomerate with widespread presence in print and electronic media. It has been claimed that the plaintiff runs and operates four 24-hour news channels in the country, including the largest Hindi news channel Aaj Tak. The plaintiff protects its intellectual property rights in the AajTak brand and its logos and has carried out various trademark registrations in Aaj Tak as also the logos.

Baruah submitted that while the plaintiff is not certain of the exact legal status of defendant no.1 at this stage, it appears that the said defendant named Tractor2Twitter is, as per its own description, an online community of persons interested in the protests taking place across the country against the new farm bills.

He submitted that the website of the defendant no.1 contains links to its social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Telegram. He further submitted that from the Twitter accounts of defendant nos. 2 and 3, it appears that they are the founder and co-founder of defendant no.1 respectively. Whereas, the defendant no. 4 is a company providing digital marketing services and is the registrant of the website of the defendant no.1.

Baruah submitted that defendant nos. 5 to 7 would fall within the definition of the term ‘intermediary’ as defined under Section 2(1)(w) and Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000; Defendant no.5 Twitter Inc is a social media company that provides micro -blogging services, defendant no.6/Facebook Inc operates social networking websites/platforms called ‘Facebook’ and ‘Instagram’ that allow users to communicate, publish and post content, and defendant no.7/Telegram FZ LLC is a freeware, cross-platform, cloud-based instant messaging software, which provide end-to-end encrypted video calling, VoIP, file sharing and several other features.

The court observed: “Having perused the various tweets which have been published by Defendant Nos.1 to 3 as well as the posts of Defendant No. 1 on its Facebook page, Instagram account and official Telegram channel, I am of the prima facie opinion that they contain wild allegations, are defamatory and use objectionable and abusive language against the plaintiff, its Aaj Tak new channel and its employees. Such a campaign against the Plaintiff, its ‘Aaj Tak’ news channel and its employees can be extremely damaging to their reputation and also cause personal injury to them.”

The Court also held that “Considering the damaging nature of the aforesaid tweets and posts made by the defendant Nos. 1 to 3, the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case and has been able to show that the balance of convenience lies in its favour. Furthermore, the plaintiff, a well-established media company, its ‘AajTak’ news channel and their employees would suffer irreparable injury to their reputation if no interim protection is granted to them immediately.

“Consequently, the Court finds it fit to grant an interim injunction in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants in terms of prayer (a) of the application under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 CPC.

“The Court while considering the averments in the plaint, till the next date of hearing the following directions are being given:“(a ) Defendant nos.1 to 3 stand restrained from making any defamatory or derogatory posts/tweets or making any adverse remarks or uploading any content against the plaintiff, the ‘AajTak’ news channel and its employees either through any of its social media accounts or on any social media platform or any other print/electronic medium and the defendants namely (i) Istrides Technologies; (ii) Twitter Incorporated; (iii) Facebook Incorporated; (iv) Telegram FZ LLC are also directed to forthwith, on being served with a copy of this order, remove/take down the defamatory posts/articles/all content pertaining to the plaintiff and block the URLs/web links provided in paragraph 13 hereinabove.

“(b ) Defendant nos.1 to 3, their agents, representatives, associates are directed to forthwith remove the tweets/posts detailed in Paragraph 13 hereinabove or Paragraphs 31, 38, and 41 of the captioned application within three days from today. In case they fail to comply with this direction, the plaintiff shall communicate the factum of this non -compliance to Defendant Nos. 5 and 6, who shall disable/block their accounts within 48 hours of receipt of such communication from the plaintiff.

“(c ) Defendant nos.5 to 7 shall, within five days of the plaintiff serving this order upon them, disclose to the plaintiff through its counsel the complete details of Defendant nos.1 to 3 that may be available with them, including the e-mail address, mobile number and any other contact details, in a password protected file.

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“(d ) Within 24 hours of receiving further contact details of defendant nos.1 to 3 in the light of the directions in paragraph (b) hereinabove, the plaintiff will make requisite compliance under Order XXXIX Rule 3 in respect of the said defendants at the newly provided contact information.”

With the aforesaid directions, the Court has fixed the next hearing of the matter for July 27.

Source ILNS

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