The Bombay High Court on Friday said that the defamation case filed by the Hindi actor Shilpa Shetty against several news channels, publications, and social media platforms requires further scrutiny as it seeks to curb the freedom of the press, Bar and Bench reported.
Though the court has not passed any order on Friday, it made clear that this does not amount to a refusal or relief in the case. The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for September 20.
On Thursday, Shetty moved the Bombay High Court to restrain 29 media houses and social media platforms from publishing or circulating “incorrect, false, malicious, and defamatory” information against her in connection with the arrest of her husband businessman Raj Kundra in the pornography case.
The actor submitted that such reports are damaging her reputation with the intention of sensationalizing news to increase their readership and viewership. She also stated that the publications are ridiculing the judicial system in an attempt to condemn Shetty and her husband Kundra as guilty.
The New Indian Express, India TV, Free Press Journal, and NDTV are a few of the publications listed in Shetty’s defamation lawsuit, along with social media platforms Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
While Shetty urged the court to direct the publications to remove the alleged defamatory content from their platforms and issue unconditional apologies for the same, she sought directions against Facebook and YouTube to remove the content in question from their respective platforms.
Calling such request to supervise editorial content “dangerous,” Justice GS Patel, who heard the case on Friday, said, “What you are asking is to curb freedom of press, I am not doing it!”
The judge also questioned how certain instances of coverage quoted in the complaint were defamatory, and said, “You are saying if you cannot say anything nice about Shilpa Shetty, do not say anything at all..?”
The court added that Kundra’s pornography case is a case of public interest that is defamatory neither by definition nor by law. The court also pointed out that Shetty is a celebrity whose whereabouts are in the public eye and this sort of coverage is a part of it.
Shetty’s lawyer argued that the actor is concerned with the loss of advertisements and endorsements due to this kind of reportage.
The court observed that while Shetty’s application does not suggest that there should be pre-censorship or gagging of the media, the freedom of press has to be balanced with the actor’s right to privacy.
For instance, the court mentioned that none of the reportage should involve Shetty’s parenting of her children because that part is protected by her right to privacy.