In an order passed on 25th September, the Delhi High Court ordered Twitter to take down several tweets by former India Today employee Rakesh Krishnan Thiyya for allegedly defaming the media house and Rajdeep Sardesai, a journalist with India Today TV. Hearing a plea filed by Rajdeep Sardesai and The Living Media Ltd, that owns India Today, Justice Rajiv Shakdher opined that the tweets lack justification, and use of cuss words in the tweets impacts the image of Sardesai.
The case was filed against the series of tweets posted by Rakesh Krishnan Thiyya on August 28, a day after the infamous interview of actor Rhea Chakraborty with Sardesai which was aired on Aaj Tak. Rakesh Krishnan Thiyya, who worked in the media house for nearly 2 years as an assistant copy editor, in a thread of Tweets has torn into the media house’s subterfuge, claiming that since the year 1999, Living Media Group has degenerated into a racket, with its editors turning into fixers rather than writers.
He had made several explosive claims about India Today, like commissioning opinion polls with predetermined results, manipulating circulation and viewership data to defraud advertisers, publishing fake letters to editor etc.
Apart from India Today group, he had also specifically targeted Rajdeep Sardesai, calling him a fixer, a dalla, referring to his interview of Sonia Gandhi. He had also tweeted, “Who knows how much money changed hands for the Rhea interview. Only time will tell.”
The petitioners argued that the allegations made Thiyya were false, and he also used cuss words like ‘fixer’, ‘dalla’ (pimp) for Sardesai, which is defamatory. They also rebutted claims about fabricated circulation numbers, quoting Audit Bureau of Circulations figures. The petitioners said that there is no basis of allegations made by Thiyya in his tweets, and these tweets have harmed the reputation of the media house along with Rajdeep Sardesai. Thus, they requested the court to order Thiyya to take down the alleged defamatory tweets.
Hearing the arguments, the court agreed with India Today group, and said that at least at this stage, the media house has established that the prima facie the tweets lack justification. The court said that usage of cuss words not only impacts the reputation of the concerned individual and lowers his image in the eyes of his friends, acquaintances, peers and associates but also impinges upon the business interests of the plaintiffs.
While the court didn’t comment on the truthfulness of the claims made in the tweets, it said that the defendant could have expressed his views while maintaining civility. “Since social media platforms are accessed by a large number of persons of various ages, it is expected of users to display sobriety and common courtesies to those towards whom the comments are directed,” the order said.
Accordingly, the court ordered Twitter, which was listed as defendant number 2 in the case, to take down 16 tweets posted by Rakesh Krishnan Thiyya.
Apart from this, the court also barred Thiyya to post any derogatory and/or defamatory statements, articles, comments etc regarding Rajdeep Sardesai and India Today group till further orders of the court.
The matter was listed for next hearing on 19th November.