SC extends stay on proceedings on defamation complaint of Jay Shah against portal, scribes

Mr. Jay Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article claimed his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.

The Supreme Court on Monday extended till August 8 the stay on a Gujarat trial court’s proceedings on the criminal defamation complaint filed by Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah, against news portal ‘The Wire’ and its scribes for allegedly writing a defamatory article.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra posted the appeals of the portal and its journalists, including Rohini Singh who had authored the news story, for final hearing on August 8 against a High Court order that had refused to quash the defamation complaint.

“The stay on the [trial court] proceedings to continue till August 8,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

At the outset, senior advocate Raju Ramchandran, appearing for the portal, said the complaint could not be settled amicably outside the court as suggested by the bench earlier and now the appeals required to be heard.

Senior advocate N K Kaul, appearing for Mr. Jay Shah, alleged that the news portal was “acting as a mouth piece of the political opponents” of Mr. Amit Shah and “factually incorrect statements” are being made inside and outside Parliament.

Mr. Kaul further said the ‘defamatory’ article was being misused by political opponents of Mr. Amit Shah, while photographs of the BJP President and the Prime Minister were also being misused.

Earlier, the court had asked Mr. Jay Shah and ‘The Wire’, along with its scribes, to try to amicably settle the case.

Mr. Jay Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article claimed his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.

The complaint was filed against Rohini Singh, the author, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.

The matter reached the apex court after the local court and the Gujarat High Court refused to quash the defamation complaint.

After hearing the plea filed by the portal and some of its scribes, the the top court had earlier stayed the Gujarat trial court’s proceedings on the the complaint.

The portal and the scribes have contended that the article contained details from records which were in “public domain electronically“.

Mr. Jay has separately filed a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the website over the article. He has also rejected the charges made in the article, insisting that the story was “false, derogatory and defamatory”.

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