The Delhi High Court passed an ex parte ad-interim injunction in favour of the Principal in his case against the two defamatory articles titled 'Indian Catholic Church Sex Scandal: Priest exploiting nuns and Hindu women exposed.' The articles were published about a School Principal of a prominent unaided minority school affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education.

The Bench of Justice Jyoti Singh observed,

“I am of the prima facie view that the contents of the article are defamatory. There is prima facie merit in the contention of the Plaintiff that the article has been published in a reckless manner without any factual verification and is tarnishing the image and reputation of the Plaintiff, who is a respectable citizen of this country and associated with several educational institutions.”

The Plaintiff sought an ex-parte injunction against the Defendants through an application under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), supplemented by Section 151 of CPC. The Plaintiff was the Principal of a prominent unaided minority school affiliated with the CBSE. The names of associated institutions were withheld for anonymity. The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants intentionally published defamatory and explicit articles on their website titled 'Indian Catholic Church Sex Scandal: Priest exploiting nuns and Hindu women exposed.' which claimed that the Plaintiff was engaged in sexual activities with staff, chefs, and students, as well as financial misconduct. The Plaintiff promptly filed a police complaint with the Cyber Cell upon discovering the articles. The Plaintiff asserted the right to reputation as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and requested the Court's direction to remove the offensive content from the public domain to prevent further reputation damage.

Advocate Sumit Bansal appeared for the Plaintiff.

Citing cases like Om Prakash Chautala v. Kanwar Bhan, Umesh Kumar v. State of Andhra Pradesh, and Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India, the Court emphasized the significance of reputation as a part of an individual's fundamental rights, while also considering the balance between free speech and reputation protection.

The Court reviewed the Defendants' published article and found it prima facie defamatory. The Court acknowledged freedom of speech as a right but underscored that it must be balanced with the right to reputation. Freedom of speech isn't unbounded and includes restrictions such as defamation.

“It needs no gainsaying that it takes years to build a reputation and therefore, right to reputation has been recognized as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. No doubt, Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution provides the right of freedom of speech and expression to all persons, however, it cannot be overlooked that the same is subject to restrictions under Article 19(2) which includes defamation.”

The Plaintiff established a prima facie case that the article damages their reputation. The continued presence of the article in the public domain could perpetuate this harm.

Given the balance of convenience and potential irreparable harm to the Plaintiff's reputation, the Court granted an ex parte ad-interim injunction against the Defendants. This injunction mandated the removal of the defamatory article from specified website links belonging to Defendant No. 1 and Defendant No. 2.

“Balance of convenience also lies in favour of the Plaintiff and against the Defendants. Irreparable harm and injury shall be caused to the reputation of the Plaintiff if the defamatory article continues on the social media platforms of the Defendants.”

The Court ordered compliance with Order XXXIX Rule 3 CPC within a week from the current date.

Cause Title: XYZ v. Bharat Prakashan (Delhi) Ltd & Ors.

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