IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI Judgment delivered on: 14th September, 2012 I.A. No.10017/ 2012 in CS(OS) 1518/2012 NIRMALJIT SINGH NARULA ..... Plaintiff Through: Ms.Karnika Seth, Adv. versus SH. YASHWANT SINGH & ORS ..... Defendant Through: Nemo. CORAM: HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE KAILASH GAMBHIR KAILASH GAMBHIR, J.
1. This order shall dispose of the application filed under order 39 Rule 1& 2 of CPC in the present suit, whereby the plaintiff is seeking ad- interim injunction against the defendants for publishing defamatory content about the Plaintiff on their website.
Before I proceed to decide the aforesaid application, It would be pertinent to give a brief resume of facts that led to the filing of the present suit by the plaintiff:-
2. As per the Plaintiff, Nirmaljit Singh Narula popularly known as CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 1 of 22 „Nirmal Baba‟ is a highly revered spiritual guide, renowned worldwide for his spiritual discourses .The Plaintiff is also known for his healing powers, and regularly conducting assemblies called as „Samagams‟. The preaching emphasize on the values of true, selfless prayer and devotion to one‟s duties and guide his followers/devotees to abstain from, rather shun the path of "mantra", "tantra" or "yantra", or in other words "black magic" or "tantric practices". The plaintiff teaches his followers to spiritually evolve their lives by believing in the ultimate powers of the religion they follow. As per the Plaintiff, the plaintiff has lacs of followers in India and abroad and plaintiff‟s website www.nirmalbaba.com is visited by over million followers in a month.
3. The plaintiff started holding Holy Samagams (congregation) where the followers/devotees come to hear his spiritual discourses and seek his blessings.
4. As per the plaintiff, The Defendant No.1 to 3 have authored and/ or published defamatory articles written by themselves and others along with defamatory comments posted by the third parties about the plaintiff on Defendant no.3 website in order to disparage and malign the reputation of the plaintiff.
5. Further as per paragraph 4 of the plaint, defendant no. 1 to 3 have published nearly 80 articles about the plaintiff containing false and defamatory allegations and statements therein using the heading "fraud CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 2 of 22 nirmal baba" , followed by number of articles written in series which show that this is a targeted, planned and malafide attack on the reputation of the plaintiff.
6. The Defendant wrote an article "Fraud Nirmal Baba", which has been elaborately discussed on Star News Channel. The Plaintiff has also filed a similar suit for defamation against STAR T.V. which is pending before this Hon‟ble Court. In the related article published on Defendant No.3 website, also authored by defendant No.3, plaintiff has been defamed by the defendants as the plaintiff in the said article has been termed as cheat and fraudster, an extract from the same is reproduced below:
"Star news ko dhongi baba ke khilaf muhim shuru karne ke liye bhadas ki taraf badhai. Umeed karte hain ki der sawer baaki news channel bhi jagenge aur apne kartavya ka nivaran karenge. Star news ne jo aaj programme dhikaya vo kaafi santulit aur gyanvardhak tha, unke liye jo baba ke andhbakht log aye hai..."
7. As per the Plaintiff the Defendant‟s work is belittling and degrading. Without there being any foundation and without taking any initiative of verification, the defendants have been publishing the disparaging material against the plaintiff as averred in the plaint.
8. The defendants have further used utter derogatory and defamatory expressions qua the plaintiff by stating :
"wo thag hai" and that "Nirmal baba jaise dhoort islaam ke naam par zehad karane wale logo se bhi bade apraadhi kahe ja sakte hai, kyoki zehad ke naam par bali dene or lene ko prerit karne wale ko dharm ka khaas nuksaan nai kar pa rahe, wo dharm ke prati logon ko aur Katter hi bana rahe hain", and, in another CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 3 of 22 article "fraud nirmal baba" and "aur iss prakaar ke babey who humare desh ko loot rahe hain............."
9. In another article published by defendants No.1 to 3 titled "fraud Nirmal baba", defendant No.3, inter alia, falsely alleged that plaintiff engages in black-marketing the samagams tickets. A nominal fee of INR 2000 is charged per person for participation in a samagam in order to meet the expenses of the arrangements made for the samagams. The defendant No.1-3 published the said article wherein it is falsely alleged that plaintiff is engaged in black marketing the tickets of the Samagams which is completely false and devoid of any merit. The defendant further relies on an alleged sting operation conducted by the India TV on 13.4.2012.
10. In the same article the defendants falsely alleged that the plaintiff induces the devotees to pay donation after samagams which as per the plaintiff is completely untrue and boisterous. The Plaintiff further submitted that the articles about the plaintiff on the website (defendant no.3) are per se defamatory and based on falsity. The articles misrepresent the facts and injure plaintiff‟s reputation.
11. The defendants have by all means tried to defame and malign the plaintiff in every possible manner. Since then, defendant No.1 has continuously and deliberately been publishing defaming articles and ridiculing the plaintiff ("Nirmal Babaji"), the "Nirmal Darbar‟ and his spiritual programs which are being aired on television. CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 4 of 22 Despite service, the Defendants have not come forward to contest the present case; hence the defendants are proceeded ex parte.
12. While arguing the present application, Ms.Karnika Seth, Counsel for the plaintiff submitted that the defendants have been carrying out false and malicious propaganda against the plaintiff by publishing defamatory statements against him. Counsel further submitted that these defendants are not publishing any kind of news on their website but are just ridiculing the plaintiff in one way or the other by carrying the malicious campaign against him, for some vested interest. The articles are per se highly defamatory and motivated by ulterior motives to attract undue publicity and make fair gains. Defendant No.1 by its scurrilous offensive, intimidatory, derogatory and malicious attack by publishing its articles through its website „bhadas4media.com‟, being the Defendant No.3 herein, inter alia, has been raising defamatory aspersions upon the character, ability and integrity of the plaintiff (Babaji) and the "Nirmal Darbar". As per the Counsel for the plaintiff, this is nothing but a persistent and gross violation and misuse of the freedom of press and the freedom of the plaintiff enshrined under the Constitution of India.
13. The Counsel for the plaintiff further invited my attention to page 73 of the documents, which is an article by the Defendants alleging Nirmal Baba as "Fraud Nirmal baba", it would be apt to quote a few lines from the said article as under:-
CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 5 of 22
"ajeeb desh hai apne Nirmal Baba ki supda abhi theek se saaf bhi nai hua ki facebook par, „param shradhya shri radhe maa‟naam ki nai devi maa chamatkar kar rahi hai. Yeh achanak peda hui devi nai hai, lagta hai ki Punjab, Haryana shetra me logon ko lambe samay se murkh bana rahi hain.",
14. The Counsel further submitted that the Defendant No.1 to 3 have blatantly and deliberately set up a malafide and manipulative campaign against the plaintiff. Counsel laid strong emphasis on her contention that the plaintiff is blessed with spiritual powers which guides his followers in the right direction and directs them to perform good deeds. Counsel further submitted that defendant No.3 website is based on falsity and has no truth which is evident from an extract from an article on page 65 of the documents wherein the plaintiff has been defamed and called as „thief‟ as alleged, an extract from the same is reproduced below:
"Nirmal baba ke dhong aur lootpat ki pol khul chuki hai,..lekin channel par ye kya ho raha hai? Nirmal Baba ko dhongi aur farebi batane ke liye channel par waise hi sandigdh baba, yogacharya,dharamguru aur jyotish acharya baithe hai jo khud bhi issi farebi network ke hisse hai. Kya chor ko pakadne ke liye chor se hi pahchan karwana zaroori hai?"
15. Counsel for the plaintiff also invited my attention to page no. 50 of the documents wherein the defendant website has published defamatory articles alleging nirmal darbar as "thug darbar", The plaintiff further brought my attention to page 19 of the plaint where the plaintiff has alleged that the defendants in their tirade against the plaintiff have repeatedly accused him of wrong doing casting serious aspersions on his integrity and honesty and character. He has repeatedly been called as a "thug" and his darbar as „thug ka darbar‟. In one article titled "fraud Nirmal Baba": "nirmal baba ke bol, khud hi khol rahe hain pol" at http: CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 6 of 22 //bhadas media.com/print/3893-fraud-nirmal-baba-76.html defamatorily alleged „nirmal darbar‟ as "thug darbar" and published false statements to disparage the reputation of plaintiff and make mockery of plaintiff‟s spiritual powers and teaching without any true basis or lawful justification."
16. Counsel further invited the attention of this Court to page 42 of the documents wherein the defendants have gone to the extent of ridiculing the plaintiff by alleging that the plaintiff has bribed channel P7 that showed a program "Nirmal Baba ki alochna ka sach" who has been bribed by the plaintiff to give their views in support of the plaintiff. Counsel for the plaintiff also submits that the said articles and insertions have been shown by the defendants on their Channel and on their website in violation of the guidelines framed by the Press Council of India and also in violation of Section 79 of the Information & Technology Act, 2000. Counsel also submits that the Plaintiff served the defendants a legal notice upon firstname.lastname@example.org sent for publishing all defamatory articles and comments posted therein in compliance with the IT (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 and Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000. Counsel further submits that these defendants are not entitled to any kind of exemptions as they themselves are the authors of the various defamatory articles of the plaintiff. Counsel also stated that these defendants are also not entitled to any protection on account of the fact that despite being put to notice they have continued publishing material against the plaintiff.
CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 7 of 22
17. I have heard learned counsel for the plaintiff at considerable length and perused the material placed on record.
18. The main grievance raised by the plaintiff is that the defendants have defamed the plaintiff by publishing derogatory statements against the plaintiff, which according to the counsel for the plaintiff is a malicious campaign with some vested interest carried on by the defendants. For instance, paragraph 15 of the plaint on page 29 the defendant falsely alleged, that just to gain reputation the plaintiff has even bribed all the t.v. channels, the important extract is quoted below:
"Nirmal baba sakshat udharan hai kaise ek sakhs ne media ko paise khila ke bal par khareed liya aur sampadko ki bolti band kar di."
19. Before dealing further with the contentions of the plaintiff it is important to note that it is the Constitution of India which under Article 19 guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every citizen including press, that is considered as the fourth estate, which takes upon itself the responsibility to inform and educate the public through various mediums and in this case, the internet more particularly the website of the defendants. Article 19(1) (a) provides that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Article 19(2) states that nothing in Sub-clause (a) of Clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said Sub-clause in the interests of the security of the State, CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 8 of 22 friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of Court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Although Article 19(1) (a) does not mention the freedom of the press, it is the settled view that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of the press and circulation. The importance of this freedom enshrined in the Constitution cannot be overemphasised as it forms a part of the fundamental rights which are the touchstone of our democratic setup. The Apex Court has time and again through various judicial pronouncements reiterated their primacy and significance. It would be apt here to mention one of the most relevant cases of Indian Express Newspapers(Bombay) Pvt.Ltd & Ors. Vs. Union Of India &Ors .AIR 1986 SC 872 wherein the Apex court as early as 1985 held that freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse and ithas assumed the role of a public educator. The court in its powerful and poignant words held that the constitutional guarantee of this freedom is not so much for the benefit of the press as it is for the benefit of the public as it exposes the weaknesses of the governments and makes an informed electorate. The court also held that:
"16. The theory is that in a democracy freedom of expression is indispensable as all men are entitled to participate in the process of formulation of common decisions. Indeed, freedom of expression is the first condition of liberty. It occupies a preferred position in the hierarchy of liberties giving succor and protection to other liberties. It has been truly said that it is the mother of all other liberties. The Press as a medium of communication is a modern phenomenon. It has immense power to advance or thwart the progress of civilization. Its freedom can be used to create a brave new world or to bring about universal catastrophe."CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 9 of 22
20. The court thus realised the power of the press to make or mar a country‟s progress with its actions. Here it would also be relevant to refer to the case of Life Insurance Corporation of India & Union of India &Anr. vs. Prof Manu bhai D. Shah & Cinemart Foundation AIR 1993 SC 171, wherein the Court held that freedom of speech to be a basic human right in the following words:
8."Speech is God's gift to mankind. Through speech a human being conveys his thoughts, sentiments and feelings to others. Freedom of speech and expression is thus a natural right which a human being acquires on birth. It is, therefore, a basic human right. "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers" proclaims the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The People of India declared in the Preamble of the Constitution which they gave unto themselves their resolve to secure to all citizens liberty of thought and expression.
The words 'freedom of speech and expression' must, therefore, be broadly construed to include the freedom to circulate one's views by words of mouth or in writing or through audio-visual instrumentalities. It, therefore, includes the right to propagate one's views through the print media or through any other communication channel e.g. the radio and the television. Every citizen of this free country, therefore, has the right to air his or her views through the printing and/or the electronic media subject of course to permissible restrictions imposed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution."
21. It was further held that the freedom to air ones views is the life line of any democratic institution and any attempt to stifle, suffocate or gag this right would sound a death-knell to democracy and would help usher in autocracy or dictatorship. It also held that: CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 10 of 22
i. "It cannot be gainsaid that modern communication mediums advance public interest by informing the public of the events and developments that have taken place and thereby education the voters, a role considered significant for the vibrant functioning of a democracy. Therefore, in any set up, more so in a democratic set up like ours, dissemination of news and views for popular consumption is a must and any attempt to deny the same must be frowned upon unless it falls within the mischief of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. It follows that a citizen for propagation of his or her ideas has a right to publish for circulation his views in periodicals, magazines and journals or through the electronic media since it is well known that these communication channels are great purveyors of news and views and make considerable impact on the minds of the readers and viewers and are known to mould public opinion on vital issues of national importance. Once it is conceded, and it cannot indeed be disputed, that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of circulation and propagation of ideas, there can be no doubt that the right extends to the citizen being permitted to use the media to answer the criticism leveled against the view propagated by him. Every free citizen has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, except to the extent permitted by Article 19(2), would be an inroad on his freedom. This freedom must, however, be exercised with circumspection and care must be taken not to trench on the rights of other citizens or to jeopardise public interest. It is manifest from Article 19(2) that the right conferred by Article 19(1)(a) is subject to imposition of reasonable restrictions in the interest of, amongst others, public order, decency or morality or in relation to defamation or incitement to an offence. It is, therefore, obvious that subject to reasonable restrictions placed under Article 19(2) a citizen has a right to publish, circulate and disseminate his views and any attempt to thwart or deny the same would offend Article 19(1)(a)."
22. The Apex Court in the recent ruling of Ramlila Maidan Incident vs. Home Secretary, UOI &Ors. 2012(2)SCALE 682gave an entire treatise on the freedom of speech and expression and held that it is the CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 11 of 22 bulwark of a democratic government and is essential for proper functioning of the democratic process.
23. Thus the freedom of speech and expression and that of the press is amenable to reasonable restrictions as per Article 19(2) which includes defamation. Nothing can be dearer to a person than his own reputation and goodwill and to intentionally injure and attack it in the garb of freedom of speech and expression is the most unpropitious blow to this freedom. This court in the celebrated judgement of Ram Jethmalani vs. Subramanium Swamy 126(2006)DLT 535 defined defamation as a public communication which tends to injure the reputation of another. It dwelled upon the balance between the freedom of expression vis a vis right to reputation and held that the law of defamation, by making actionable certain utterances, runs counter to another widely accepted legal tenet - the right to freedom of expression, but the two have been harmonised by judicial process so that an individual's right of privacy and protection of honour and reputation is preserved and at the same time the public interest in free speech is also protected. It further held that:
"94. The pendulum between reputation and expression has swung back and forth through history, but a body of positive jurisprudence evidenced by the decision in Sullivan's case (Supra) has developed. However, I may note that case law developed around political speeches. The aim of the law was to see that there was no chilling effect. If a person is under a fear of being sued, he may not express himself freely on public issues and this would chill the public debate."
24. Thus the right to sue for defamation should not have a chilling effect on matters of public importance and freeze the autonomy to CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 12 of 22 express their opinions and ideas. This Court though in the context of defamation as a criminal offence in the case of Rajan Bihari Lal Raheja & Ors. Vs. M/s Planman Consulting India Pvt. Ltd &Anr.185(2011)DLT 154 referred to the oft-quoted pronouncement in Attorney General v. Times Newspaper Ltd. (1973)3 AllER 54 wherein the Supreme Court observed that the freedom of expression has following four broad social purposes to serve:
(ii) It helps an individual to attain self-fulfilment.
(iii) It assists in the discovery of truth. (iv) It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision making. (v) It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible
to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change.
25. The court in Rajan Bihari (supra) held that every individual has a right to protect his reputation and goodwill and even a journalist has no unfettered right to make defamatory statement about a person to a third person or persons without lawful and justifiable basis. This right of an individual was recognized by the Supreme Court in the matter of State of Bihar v. Lal Krishna Advani AIR 2003 SC 3357 wherein it was observed that reputation is an integral and important aspect of dignity of every individual. The right to preserve one's reputation is acknowledged as a right in rem i.e. a right against the entire world. The court however eloquently gauged the dilemma holding the law of defamation as a culmination of conflict between the right of the individual and the right of CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 13 of 22 the society to be informed. It further held and it is pertinent to reproduce the relevant para as under:
(vi) "On the one hand, there is a fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution of India and on the other hand, it is the right of individual to his reputation and goodwill. The question arises as to how to bring about a balance between the two rights' How far can the right of freedom of speech and expression extend and when does it become necessary for the law to step in to safeguard the right of the individual to preserve his reputation and dignity' The law of defamation seeks to attain a balance between the above two competing rights."
26. Hence, what has to be achieved is the balance between the right of freedom of speech and the right to one‟s reputation and not to sacrifice any of the two to keep our vibrant democracy alive. In the present case as well this court is faced with the situation where the defendants have levelled allegations against the plaintiff who claims himself to be a spiritual guru and a revered saint and as the defendants did not appear before the court despite the knowledge of the present proceedings the court is thus left to till and toil to examine prima facie the veracity of the allegations imputed.
27. Our country was perceived as the land of the sadhus and saints since time immemorial where karma and spirituality took precedence over economic development. Though we have come a long way, as the world anointed us as the next economic superpower, the mystical sadhus and the Godmen have not left the picture, the difference may be that some of the sadhus travel by a private jet and have a turnover worth crores making even the business tycoons feel jittery. The superstitions and CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 14 of 22 beliefs of people are manifested in various forms like astrology, witchcraft, different therapies and the like. The God Market that has come about in India has struck a chord abroad and the Babas and saints, innumerable and diverse have a tutelage they boast of including a nobody to a celebrity. Whether India or abroad, people all over are afflicted with problems, different in magnitude and type but for each of them, their individual problem or misery, is the biggest crisis of their lives and anyone who can claim to heal or provide a shortcut to alleviate their pain and suffering occupies the stature of God in their lives . The people who are followers of various saints and Godmen believe in their miraculous healing powers through which bodily afflictions or mental agony or pain gets cured. This is opposed to the earlier view where the saint shared a relation of a guru and a disciple and the guru was the master and teacher of various scriptures but now some of them claim to have mystical powers and claim to know the inner worlds and minds of their followers. It is the stories of their miraculous healing that make them what they are and the media augments their cause further. These Godmen resort to various methods and each of them claim to be unique and have an individual connection with the Almighty. Let this not be understood to mean that there is dearth of saints who enjoy real spiritual powers and are alleviated souls. Such saints often live a life in oblivion. To quote an example Swami Dayanand Saraswati who was a great spiritual leader and a social reformer found his Spiritual Guru in a blind man, named, Swami Virjanand, who lived in a hut, and after having received lessons CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 15 of 22 at the feet of his spiritual Guru, he asked him as to what he could offer him as Guru-Dakshina- the Guru replied "Spread my message to the world and that will be my Guru Dakshina". Such were the saints that this country have produced and known.
28. The plaintiff claiming to be a spiritual guru on directions of this court placed on record various videos of the Samagams held by the plaintiff where his devotees have expressed their gratitude to him for making their lives problem free. The videos also depict the various cures and remedies propagated by him. It would be pertinent here to quote at least one of them:
"Baba: puri chhole khaye kabhi? Bakht: ji baba ji khaye hain
Baba: Aisa karo puri chhole baba ko yad kar do char garibo ko khila do, prabhu ki zyada kripaa ayegi."
29. The above instance is only one odd out of the basket and any prudent person with average intelligence would be in rapt disbelief if such a remedy would get him rid of the difficulties he is facing in his life. Prima facie, these do not appear as logical to a rational mind but the whole edifice of this God market and its nuances is based on the belief system of people. This court cannot help but sound a word of caution that this sudden resurgence of the babas who claims to have mystical powers and give all kind of illogical solutions to overcome the miseries of people has amplified and glorified superstition and has turned the clock back of development in our country.
CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 16 of 22
30. The media today is the messiah of the masses and it influences people‟s thoughts, actions and opinions on the most crucial of issues, keeping public debate alive. However with this power comes the responsibility to verify news and not generate in public; bias, hostility or enmity. However it cannot shy away from the fact that the media inter se, print, electronic and internet, etc .have cut throat competition and in the bid to outdo each other has tremendous pressure in terms of hits, circulations, viewership, commonly referred to as TRP. In the race to grab eyeballs it sensationalises news and information. It will not be incorrect to say that that the information revolution has proved to be a double edged sword with its omnipresence and drive to dig into every nook and corner for news and dissect and thereby corrode the lives of public figures. The potent media has the power to massacre the reputation and lives of many and has made many glorified saints and Gods out of nobody in the cloak of informing and creating awareness.
31. In the present case on perusing through the content of the website of the defendants placed on record, it appears that the defendants have a series of articles against the plaintiff calling him names like "thug baba", "Chor", "fraud nirmal darbar", darbar as "thug darbar". Not commenting on the veracity of the allegations levelled against the plaintiff, the defendants have in the opinion of this court gone a step ahead of its rights of freedom of press. It also cannot be forgotten that the reach of the internet as a medium is vast and far reaching than print and electronic and the click of a mouse can disseminate in a split second the CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 17 of 22 views of anyone. Having said this, the plaintiff who claims himself to be a Baba and Spiritual Guide and through his Samagams and telecast of his discourses through various T.V. Channels, like other public figures is under constant public and media gaze, should not be sensitive to and rather should be open to criticism and scrutiny. The filing of defamation suit is a right of the plaintiff but the same cannot be allowed to become a lethal weapon in sabotaging the freedom of the press. The print and the electronic media being the eyes and ears of the citizens, its freedom cannot be unreasonably trampled upon by resorting to legal processes and unreasonably dragging them to face defamation and contempt cases as it will lead to sounding a death knell for democracy. But at the same time, the press and the media cannot denigrate others with a targeted campaign without any basis and proper verification.
32. This court would like to quote that in the case of Ram Jethmalani (supra) a passage from the famous Othello was culled out and it states; A good name is worth more than good riches. (Shakespear's Othello, Act-II, Scene III, pp.167):- Good name in man and woman, dear my Lord is the immediate jewel of their souls; Who steals my purse, steals trash; It‟s something, nothing; T'was mine, it‟s his, and has been slate to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name, Robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed. Therefore, in my considerable view, nobody has any right, not even the media or website operators to disparage, defame, disrepute or malign the reputation of any person unless they are in possession of sufficient material or unbiased CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 18 of 22 information clearly pointing out to any kind of illegal or other nefarious activities of such persons. Undoubtedly, the media or any such modes of communication have to be very careful when the question comes of reputation or esteem of any person or the institution involved as any irresponsible or reckless campaign by media or these sites can play havoc with the esteem, prestige, reputation and goodwill of any person. It takes years and decades to build reputation or goodwill be it a politician, public figure, bureaucrat, social worker, saint or a spiritual leader but any irresponsible act on the part of the media can result in ruining the image and reputation of such person which may cause incalculable and irreversible damage to the prestige and reputation of such a person. Be that as it may, one cannot lose sight of the fact that all these public personalities whether in political, social or spiritual field are always under the public gaze and if such people commit any unduly act or indulge into any nefarious or illegal activity or do not maintain self restrain in their public utterances or commit any act demeaning their position and status then later on they cannot complain that they stand defamed, disreputed or ridiculed by media or other websites. The media is watching them 24X7 as they owe a duty to the society to expose such people indulging into illegal, immoral, unruly acts prejudicial or inimical to threaten peace, harmony and tranquillity of the society. The spiritual Babas and Sadhus who have entered into our lives through the electronic media and other websites are no exception to the said self-restraint norms and regulations. On the direction given by this court, the plaintiff had placed CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 19 of 22 on record some of the CD‟s of his alleged spiritual discourses including the CD of Channel P-7. This court has viewed all these CDs and to the surprise of the court the plaintiff has selectively placed the CD‟s and that too after editing the same. Be that as it may, having accessed through some of the videos of the samagams on the internet, the objectionable solutions being offered in the alleged spiritual discourse of the plaintiff are easily discernible. There can be no objection if any Sadhu or Saint gives any kind of spiritual discourse and to that extent this court also feels that without going into the intellectual and spiritual background of the plaintiff he has unfettered right to give spiritual discourse. This cannot be a cause of any heart burn but the precise question is, whether such spiritual babas or the plaintiff in their lectures or discourses can suggest solutions which are absurd, irrational, illogical, unfathomable and unacceptable. The plaintiff advising his disciples in the Samagams and through media, millions of people watching television to open black purses at the time of showering of his blessings then the same will result in inflow of money to them and likewise to tell people to eat Rabri, Masala Dosa or Paani Poori to overcome their miseries, are the kind of solutions which are highly irrational, weird and unacceptable to commonsensical notions, bound to result in backlash by the media and other such agencies. This is exactly what has happened that the plaintiff Nirmal Baba because of his totally illogical and unacceptable solutions, he is being termed as fraudster, Thag, Natwar Lal and so on and so forth by the defendants. The plaintiff cannot expect the media to be a silent spectator and to allow such a CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 20 of 22 person to exploit the sentiments of the people who in their innocence would easily believe in whatever such kind of Babas tell their disciples to do. One cannot be oblivious of the fact that the people who approach these Babas are in search of easy solutions to their agonies be it relating to health, poverty, unemployment, disharmony in the family etc and there is no dearth of such people not only in our country but in the whole world falling into the traps of the Babas and Sadhus. It is a well-known fact that the Indian Babas are quite popular not here alone but in the rest of the world and the kind of riches these Babas have acquired and their life style and affluence speaks for itself.
33. Hence, in the light of above discussion and to balance the equities, this court is of the considered view that it is a fit case for the grant of a conditional injunction. The defendants are accordingly restrained from licensing, writing, publishing, hosting or advertising any defamatory material against the plaintiff on their website or through any other print/electronic media to defame the reputation of the plaintiff subject to the condition that the plaintiff also restrains himself in future from giving any kind of absurd or illogical solutions to his disciples and others, and, confines his discourses to all such kind of teachings through which the life of common man can improve and improve in the right direction.
34. Nothing stated hereinabove shall be taken to be an expression of opinion on the merits of the case.
CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 21 of 22
35. The application stands disposed of in above terms.
KAILASH GAMBHIR, J September 14, 2012 CS(OS) No. 1518/2012 Page 22 of 22