A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed further proceedings on three defamation cases filed by KCP Infra Limited in Coimbatore and others demanding Rs 1 crore each from non-governmental organisation Arappor Iyakkam, Google and YouTube, which were pending before a single judge.

The Bench of Justice M. Duraiswamy and Justice Sundar Mohan, which granted the stay while passing interim orders on the appeals from Arappor Iyakkam, posted the matter for further hearing on July 20 with a direction to KCP Infra and other respondents to file their counters.

Alleging corruption in the award of tenders by the Corporations in Chennai and Coimbatore, in which former Minister S P Velumani and others were allegedly involved, Arappor Iyakkam lodged a complaint before the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) in September, 2018. It also conducted a press meet in this connection. The details were subsequently published as postings in Facebook and YouTube.

KCP Infra filed a civil suit claiming the press meet held by the Iyakkam was defamatory and sought an interim injunction in the nature of a gag order. All the applications were dismissed by a single judge in June, 2019.

While so, KCP Infra instituted the present suit in 2021 demanding Rs 1 crore each as damages from the three for the content published in 2018 that was already adjudicated as prima facie not defamatory by merely challenging a different medium of publication.

In both these suits, the content was the same, the medium of publication had alone changed. The present suit was also barred by limitation as Entry 75 of the Limitation Act mandated that a suit for libel must be instituted within one year of publication. The Entry makes no distinction for the medium of publication used i.e., whether it was print or electronic, the Iyakkam, represented by its managing trustee Jayaram Venkatesan contended.

Click here to read/download Order

With PTI inputs