Image of political functionaries "cannot be permitted to be tumbled by baseless, defamatory statements by any political entity/individual for petty gains", the Delhi High Court observed while granting an injunction against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its Delhi MLA Vinay Mishra in a defamation Suit.

The Court also directed Twitter to take down around 13 tweets of the MLA Vinay Mishra.

The Suit was filed by Hanuman Beniwal, a Member of Parliament and the National Convenor of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) and other legislators of the party alleging that the Dwarka MLA and the APP's Rajasthan in-charge made allegations about Plaintiff's and RLP's decision to support independent candidate Subhash Chandra.

Vinay Mishra had alleged on Twitter that Beniwal accepted 40 crores to vote for Subhash Chandra in the Rajyasabha election.

The Bench of Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta started his analysis by stating that any attempt to stifle or suffocate the right to freedom of speech and expression is a death knell of democracy.

"This freedom needs to be exercised with circumspection and care and cannot be permitted to violate the rights of other citizens and to jeopardize their public interest. More so, in case of political functionaries, who spend their lifetime for building their image in the public, the same cannot be permitted to be tumbled by baseless, defamatory statements by any political entity/individual for petty gains", the Court said.

The Court held that "...on the face of record, the tweets in question referred at serial No.1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,12&13 in para 5, prima facie appear to be libellous statement made by defendant No. 1 and are per se defamatory. The same appear to be reckless in the absence of any supporting material reflected in the aforesaid tweets and are completely in disregard of the right to reputation of the plaintiffs guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India".

The Court held that if the tweets are permitted to continue on record, it is likely to further blemish the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiffs and may cause a misimpression in the trust of the voters of the party or common citizens of the country in the absence of any cogent evidence. "It cannot be ruled out that the tweets may have been actuated by malice with an attempt to impact the Rajya Sabha elections which were scheduled for 10th June, 2022 and to cause loss of reputation to the plaintiffs, which may have been built by sheer dedication and hard work over a long period of time", the Bench said.

The Court held that the tweets appear to be calculated to injure the reputation of the plaintiffs by exposing them to an adverse opinion or ridicule in the eyes of the public. "It cannot be ignored that unfounded allegations in print or electronic media can be damaging forever, if there is no opportunity to vindicate one's reputation", the Court said.

The Court said that alleging that votes were sold off causes irreparable damage to reputation.

The Court restrained defendants from re-publishing, releasing, transmitting, distributing or publishing, circulating through print or electronic media any defamatory statements in relation to the tweets already made. The Court also directed Twitter to immediately mask, block or suspend the impugned tweets.

Click here to read/download Order