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Delhi HC orders deletion of insinuating content in the biography of Baba Ramdev

September 30, 2018 | barandbench.com

In a big win for Baba Ramdev, the Delhi High Court today restrained Jaggernaut Books from publishing, distributing and selling its book titled “Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev” to the extent that it makes “unfounded claims” against the Yoga Guru.

The Court directed that if the publisher Jaggernaut Books wishes to publish and sell the biography written by Priyanka Pathak Narain, it has to delete portions of the book that deal with the death of Baba Ramdev’s ally, Shankar Dev Ji and the disappearance of his Guru, Swami Yogananda.

The High Court had passed an order of temporary injunction against the publisher earlier this year.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Anu Malhotra evoked Right to Dignity and Reputation guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to partially allow Baba Ramdev’s plea seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the author and the publisher from publishing, selling and distributing the book.

“..the right to reputation of a living individual under Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be sacrificed and crucified at the altar of the right to freedom of speech and expression of another and both have to be harmonized and balanced in as much as no amount of damages can redeem the damage to reputation of any person and merely because there have been previous publications on the same issue, the same does not permit any repetitions of prima facie defamatory insinuations against him.”, the judgement reads.

The Court observed that since Baba Ramdev is “revered and respected as a spiritual Yoga Guru and that the veracity or otherwise of the contents of statements made in the BOOK is yet to be established”, there was no justification to refuse his plea for an injunction against the insinuating statements in the book.

It stated,

“… the petitioner about whom the BOOK is written about is living human being and thus entitled to be treated with dignity and has a right of social reputation as an ordinary citizen even if he be a public figure, and as reputation is a cherished value and an element of personal security, portions of the BOOK which make readers think that he is an ambitious villain, until so proved in the Court of Law are necessarily to be restrained from being published and distributed for sale till disposal of the suit bearing no. 619/2017 pending before the learned ACJ-CCJ-ARC(E), Karkardooma Courts, Delhi.”

The Court rejected the Respondents’ argument that the insinuating content in the book amounted to “fair comment”, saying,

“..in order to be justifiable as fair comment, it must appear as a comment and must not be so mixed up with the facts that the reader cannot distinguish between what is reported and what is comment and a comment must not convey imputations of disreputable motive unless adequately supported with evidence.”

Furthermore, the Court noted that the balance of convenience was in favour of Baba Ramdev as irreparable loss would be caused to him if “some portions” of the book continue to be in operation.

The Court thus directed Jaggernaut Books to delete the insinuating portions from the Book to be able to market the book.

Baba Ramdev was represented by Senior Advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Dayan Krishanan. They were assisted by a team of advocates from Athena Legal, led by Simranjeet Singh and comprising Rohan Ahuja, Siddharth Mahajan,  Sonali Dhir, Mahima Deepak and Sanjeevi.

Juggernaut Books was represented by Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, assisted by Advocates Raj Shekhar Rao, Satyajit Sarna and Pallavi Srivastava.

Priyanka Pathak Narain was represented by Advocates Amit Aggarwal and Aanchal Tikmani.

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