Office Location

Delhi:

E-5, 2nd Floor, Defence Colony
New Delhi - 110024
Tel : 011-24336744

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Mumbai:

Office No. 1410, 14th Floor, Maker Chamber V, Nariman Point, Mumbai
Tel : +91 22-22873499

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Gurgaon:

Level 18, One Horizon Center, Golf Course Road, DLF Phase 5, Sector 43, Gurgaon 122002, India
Tel : +91 124 668 8146 / +91 124 668 8147

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Mumbai (Entertainment and Media Practice)

Office No. 213, 2nd Floor, A-wing, Crystal Plaza, Andheri Link Road, Andheri (W), Mumbai.
Tel : 022-62360762

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Mumbai (Corporate and Transactional Practice)

909/A, Capital Building, Bandra Kurla Complex, East Mumbai- 400098

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Bangalore:

21/2, 1st Main Road,
Opp Indian overseas Bank,
Gandhinagar,
Bengaluru - 560009

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Kanpur:

77A, Cantt., Kanpur - 208004

FIR Privileged and Protected from Defamation

Justice Endlaw of the Delhi High Court threw out a lawsuit filed by a skill training agency against a regional Bengali newspaper. The newspaper, Dainik Samayik Prasanga owned by Selima Publications Pvt. Ltd. had published a news report about a First Information Report (FIR) filed against Primero Skill & Training Pvt. Ltd--which is an approved training partner for the “Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana”--by a lady who had been trained by the agency.

The facts are complicated but it appears that some money owed to the lady was wrongfully deducted from her account and transferred to the training agency. She file a criminal complaint before the Magistrate’s court which then directed the police station to file a FIR. The news report was based on the facts stated in the FIR.

Despite the paper, Dainik Samayik Prasanga, being published in Assam, the employment agency sought to sue the newspaper and others before the Delhi High Court on the grounds that the newspaper was also published on the internet and could be accessed by people of Delhi where the plaintiff had its main office and where it would suffer a loss to its reputation.

Normally when a new lawsuit is filed before a court, the judge has considerable power on whether to admit the lawsuit or dismiss it even before issuing notice to the opposite party. It is a power that is rarely invoked by the Delhi High Court, except in this case Justice Endlaw did raise the issue of jurisdiction at the stage of registering the lawsuit. Since the defendants were based in Assam, the article was published in Bengali and the principle circulation of the newspaper was in Bengal, Justice Endlaw questioned whether his court had the jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.

The sticky issue of course was the website of the newspaper which was still accessible in Delhi. Normally under the Code of Civil Procedure, a court has the jurisdiction when the defendant resides within its jurisdiction or when the cause of action arises within its territorial jurisdiction. In the case of defamation, the cause of action arises wherever the words are published – in the case of the internet, it means that every court in the country could have jurisdiction over the case.

The judge then cites a number of judgments where Indian courts have held as privileged statements made in relation to the courts and therefore immune to charges of defamation. These include statements made by witnesses in court or by complainants to magistrates or the police. These judgments coupled with the Supreme Court’s judgments that have time and again upheld the right of the press to report on judicial proceedings were cited by Justice Endlaw to treat the reporting of the contents of a FIR as privileged and protected from defamation. Eventually the suit was dismissed on this ground rather than the jurisdiction issue.