On Thursday, Delhi High Court slammed Saket Gokhale, a Congress supporter and an ardent fan of senior MP Rahul Gandhi, for putting alleged defamatory tweets out against former diplomat Lakshmi M Puri on Twitter without any due diligence, reports Bar and Bench.
Former Indian Diplomat Lakshmi Puri, the wife of Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, had sent a legal notice to Gokhale for his posts on Twitter casting aspersions that the couple had undisclosed income through which they purchased property in Switzerland. Lakshmi M Puri had earlier slammed Saket Gokhale for creating a mischievous Twitter thread filled with baseless allegations against her.
In response to his tweets Puri had sent a legal notice through her lawyers seeking immediate removal of these tweets. The notice also sought an apology from Gokhale and an undertaking that the same would not be repeated.
During the hearing, the Delhi High Court asked Congress supporter Saket Gokhale about how could he be vilifying people as he did to Lakshmi M Puri. In its scathing observation, the Court slammed Saket Gokhale, saying that he must have gone to them to make necessary clarifications before he got to the public domain if he had any problem with public functionaries.
If you have any problem with public functionaries, you must go to them. Make necessary clarifications before you got to the public domain: Court— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) July 8, 2021
Advocate Maninder Singh, representing Lakshmi M Puri, submitted before the court that their client Lakshmi M Puri was not holding any public office and demonstrated how mala fide Saket Gokhale was.
“I have worked for 28 years in the service. During my leave, I worked with United Nations. The defiance of the law is when I send a legal notice, he says you are not the court, so we had to approach the Court,” said the counsel representing the former diplomat.
Explaining the legality of her properties and income, Lakshmi M Puri said the issue was a family affair, and Saket Gokhale is nobody to question them. “The way people have reacted to his tweets, defamation is complete,” Advocate Maninder Singh appearing for Puri, said.
“I could have put these documents in a sealed cover to the Court, but I insisted otherwise. Let this be an example to people making allegations without accountability,” said Singh, adding that the tweets have conclusive evidence of defamation and harassment against his client.
Lakshmi M Puri describes Saket Gokhale’s crowdfunding modus-operandi
Sharing the crowdfunding links posted by Congress ‘activist’ Saket Gokhale, Advocate Singh apprised the court that Saket Gokhale claims to “fight the good fight” and appeals for funds on a constant basis. Singh said this is a new way to earn money, a new business method to first embarrass and harass somebody who’s retired after serving for years.
“When when he gets a notice, he says, “Oh, oh, you’re intimidating me.” New business model. Our prayer is he has to remove this defamatory material,” Advocate Maninder Singh said on Gokhale’s ‘crowdfunding’ initiatives.
Singh: Then when he gets a notice, he says “Oh, oh you’re intimidating me.” New business model. Our prayer is he has to remove this defamatory material.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) July 8, 2021
Reading the tweets put out by Saket Gokhale, Advocate Singh said that his client has been called ‘chor’, ‘looteri’, ‘thief’ and ‘black money hoarder’. “If people who have served with the utmost integrity and who have done things after retirement face this from people with no accountability, only the court can save us,” he pointed out.
Singh also said that such blatantly false and nonsensical tweets from persons with no accountability should not be allowed to remain.
Hearing the arguments, the court lambasted Saket Gokhale, asking them to show the court that he had cross-checked with the plaintiff before putting this in the public domain. As Gokhale said he did not inform the plaintiff, the High Court asked, “So any Tom, Dick and Harry can write anything vilification against anyone on the internet”.
Saket Gokhale claimed that he had a right to know information as a voter, to which the court asked him to go to the Election Commission to be satisfied. “Before you throw mud at someone, you must do a due diligence exercise,” pointed out High Court.
Show me that before you put this on public domain, you cross-checked with the plaintiff: Court— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) July 8, 2021
I do not need to: Naved
So any Tom, Dick and Harry can write anything vilificatory against anyone on the internet? Court#DelhiHighCourt #saketgokhale
The Delhi High Court asked whether Saket Gokhale had approached authorities to verify your claims. “If you do not have a judgment in support, tell the Court. Don’t go on tangents,” observed Delhi High Court after lawyers representing the Congress supporter failed to provide any evidence to back their claims.
After hearing both sides, the Delhi High Court reserved the order for Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Saket Gokhale’s allegations of impropreity against Lakshmi Puri
In a series of tweets in June 2021, Congress supporter Saket Gokhale had alleged that Lakshmi Puri bought a house worth $2.5 million in Switzerland, for which the couple did not have enough legitimate sources of income. The house was purchased in 2006. Gokhale had claimed that it was declared first by Hardeep Singh Puri in 2017 as a member of the Union cabinet. Lakshmi Puri took a loan of CHF 1.6 million for the house.
As 20% of the loan amount has to be covered by the borrower, Lakshmi Puri had to show an income of CHF 3,00,000, which, according to Gokhale, was not possible as she was drawing Rs 8.4 lakh with Rs 1.4 lakh grade pay as an IFS officer. Coming up with lousy calculations, Gokhale had calculated that the annual income of Lakshmi M Puri would be Rs 10-12 lakh per year. He had also claimed that a down payment of CHF 5,40,000 (Rs. 4.3 crores) must have been made, which according to him, is not possible with the known incomes of the Puris.
In response, Lakshmi M Puri took to Twitter to reply to Gokhale’s allegations and asked him to get his facts right. She informed that while posted at UN, she was getting a tax-free salary as per UN scale, not as per IFS scale. Therefore, she was getting over the US $200,000 per year, which translates to around Rs 1.5 crore at the current exchange rate.
She had said, “Get your facts right, Saket Gokhale & there is no ‘mystery’. I was an International Civil Servant from 2002 to Feb ‘18. Drew a tax free UN salary of over US $200,000 annually when I bought the apartment in Geneva.” She further added, “All facts declared to concerned authorities. Prepare to be sued.”
Get your facts right @SaketGokhale & there is no ‘mystery’. I was an International Civil Servant from 2002 to Feb ‘18. Drew a tax free UN salary of over US $200,000 annually when I bought the apartment in Geneva.— Lakshmi M Puri (@lakshmiunwomen) June 23, 2021
All facts declared to concerned authorities.
Prepare to be sued.
The documents put out by Puri had shown that the annual income of Lakshmi M Puri was significantly higher than Rs 10-12 lakh estimated by Saket Gokhale, which explain how she was able to afford the house. It showed there was no ‘mystery’ in the issue as alleged by Saket Gokhale, however, it only showed that he was ignorant about the remuneration of people employed at the United Nations. Lakshmi Puri had also threatened that she would sue Saket Gokhale.