The Gujarat High Court has issued notices to Jay Shah, the son of BJP president Amit Shah, on a petition challenging the gag order he secured from a lower court against online portal The Wire.
Two separate Appeals have been filed before the High Court– one by the author of the article Rohini Singh, and by the Founding Editors and the Foundation that funds the website. The High Court has refused to stay the impugned order of additional Senior Civil Judge B.K. Dasondi of Ahmedabad rural court.
Justice Paresh Upadhyay issued the notice, seeking a reply within two weeks.
The website's lawyer, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, argued that the lower court's order prohibiting it from publishing any article related to Jay Shah was a curtailment of the Constitutional freedom of speech and expression.
Dave submitted that the impugned order reflects “total non application of mind and absolute failure to adhere to well settled principles for grant of injunction”. The Appellants relied on Article 19, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression, to include freedom of press. They submitted that the impugned article is wholly factual and is based on official records obtained from the Registrar of Companies.
Its readers have the right to know, said the petition, while maintaining that there was nothing defamatory in its article about Jay Shah's firm.
A local court recently issued a gag order against The Wire in response to a civil defamation suit of Rs 100 crore filed by Jay Shah against the reporters, editors and the company over an article which claimed that his company's turnover rose 16,000 times in one year after the NDA came to power.
The company saw a huge rise in its turnover following Narendra Modi becoming prime minister in 2014, and its revenue rose from Rs 50,000 to over Rs 80 crore in one year, the article said.
It triggered a political firestorm, with the Congress demanding inquiry into the matter and while the BJP calling it slanderous.
Jay Shah has also filed a criminal defamation suit against author of the article Rohini Singh, 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, the non-profit company that runs 'The Wire'.
In his suit, Shah termed the article as "scandalous, frivolous, misleading, derogatory, libelous and consisting of several defamatory statements."
In the criminal defamation suit case, the metropolitan magistrate has summoned all the respondents on November 13.