While Republic TV wins the case, ‘The News Minute’ looks for Shashi Tharoor’s victory

Not too long ago, in May 2017, Shashi Tharoor had filed a defamation case against Arnab Goswami and the Republic TV. Tharoor also sought a permanent and prohibitory injunction restraining the channel from airing any news about the death of Sunanda Pushkar, Tharoor’s wife, till the investigations were over.

Today, the Delhi High Court refused to restrain the channel and Arnab Goswami from airing news and debates related to the death of Susanda Pushkar.

Justice Manmohan observed that while Arnab Goswami is free to report and conduct debates, prior to running a story he must ask Tharoor for his version. If he fails to respond within a reasonable period of time, Republic is free to run the story. He observed :

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“However, before airing any story pertaining to the plaintiff, the defendants shall give the plaintiff a written notice, by electronic mode, asking for his version. If the plaintiff refuses or does not reply within a reasonable time, he will not be compelled to speak and the story will be aired with the disclosure that the plaintiff has refused to speak to the defendants.”

LiveLaw also reported the following observations by Justice Manmohan :

“Press cannot “convict anyone” or insinuate that he/she is guilty or make any other unsubstantiated claims. Press has to exercise care and caution while reporting about matters under investigation or pending trial”.

“This Court refrains from saying anything more as Mr. Sandeep Sethi, learned senior counsel for defendants had assured this Court on 29th May, 2017 that the defendants in future would exercise restraint as well as bring down the “rhetoric‟ and even according to Mr. Salman Khurshid, learned senior counsel for plaintiff, subsequent to the said statement the “previous vitriolic attack‟ was missing. The statement made by Mr. Sandeep Sethi is accepted by this Court and defendants are held bound by the same”

While the High Court clearly upheld the right of Republic TV and Arnab Goswami to air news and debates revolving around the death of Sunanda Pushkar and shot down Shashi Tharoor’s plea for prohibitory injunction, ‘TheNewsMinute’, an online portal, was found taking a different line of argument.

While the direction taken by The News Minute in its headline wasn’t inaccurate as The High Court did observe Tharoor’s version should be sought and failing a response, Republic TV was free to air the story, one might say it wasn’t the essence of the judgement considering the case that was being heard.

The portal was immediately called out by Prema Sridevi, who is one of the Editors at Republic TV, to which Dhanya Rajendran, the Editor-in-Chief responded.

Dhanya Rajendran’s contention was that it was an agency story hence the portal can’t be blamed for the angle it took, while Prema argued that this was a question of editorial discretion.

In fact, Republic TV was even congratulated by Subramanian Swamy, who has been fighting to get justice for Sunanda Pushkar.

‘TheNewsMinute’ has since updated the headline :

The case filed against Republic TV was indeed thrown out by the Delhi High Court and it was a victory for the channel. Shashi Tharoor’s contention was disallowing the channel to report on the matter, and that was summarily dismissed. While the agency report may have taken a certain line of argument, ‘TheNewsMinute’ should have certainly taken an editorial call to alter the headline and report the true essence of the judgement, rather than a side note. The responsibility of the line of argument taken by a portal is the portal’s alone and a higher editorial standard is certainly to be expected.

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