The Bombay High Court refused to pass any interim orders to restrain Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik from making any statements on social media against NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede or his family, As they did not believe the allegations made by Malik against Wankhede were "prima facie, totally false." However noted prima facie his tweets targeting the IRS officer in the recent past had actuated out of malice.
Questioning the timings of Malik's tweets against Wankhede, the judge said "it was apparent that the minister's allegations were borne out of malice and animosity". However, since the allegations were of serious nature, pertained to Wankhede's official duties, and had even resulted in inquiries being initiated by the Maharashtra government and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) against the officer, the court could not impose a blanket prohibition on Malik, the HC said.
The HC's judgement came on an interim prayer for injunction sought by Wankhede's father against the state minister. The high court, however, directed Malik to ensure that in the future, all statements against Wankhede and his family be made only after "reasonable verification of facts."
The court referred to the copy of Wankhede's birth certificate that Malik secured from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in response to his RTI query and submitted in the court to show that the NCB officer was born a Muslim but had falsely claimed to belong to a Scheduled Caste to secure his central government job.
The HC also noted that serious allegations against Wankhede had been made by Prabhakar Sail, a 'panch' witness in the drugs-on-cruise case in which Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan is one of the accused."At the prima face stage, it cannot be said allegations are totally false. Although the plaintiff has a fundamental right to privacy, the defendant (Malik) has a right to freedom of speech and expression. There has to be balancing of both fundamental rights," the judge said.
The court further said a citizen's right to privacy was implicit in his or her right to life and that a citizen had every right to protect his or her right to privacy. However, Wankhede was a government officer so the larger public, too, had a right to examine his conduct but that must be done with reasonable verification, it said."Prima face, defendant's act is out of malice but no blanket injunction is possible. But the defendant directed to make statements only after reasonable verification."
Last week, Malik submitted before the HC, a letter by the Public Health Officer of the BMC with a copy of the declaration pertaining to the change of name of Sameer Wankhede, and two school leaving certificates issued for Wankhede by St Joseph's High School and St Paul High School in the city in the 1980s. All of these documents, Malik claimed, showed Wankhede was born a Muslim and that his father's real name was not Dnyandev but Dawood. As per Malik's claims made before the HC, Dnyandev's name was Dawood K Wankhede and it was only in 1993 that he got it changed to Dnyandev Wankhede.
Dnyandev Wankhede, however, countered Malik's claims. He submitted through his counsel, Arshad Shaikh, a digitized birth certificate issued by the BMC for Sameer Wankhede and Dnyandev's caste certificate to show his name had always been Dnyandev and that the NCB Zonal Director had been born a Hindu and belonged to the Mahar community, which falls under the Scheduled Caste category.
Dnyandev Wankhede has also sought damages worth Rs 1.25 crore.
Sameer Wankhede and his family have repeatedly denied all allegations made by the state minister.
With PTI Inputs