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regular-article-logo Saturday, 13 April 2024

Made mistake by retweeting video: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal tells SC in defamation case

When it comes to the question of retweeting, there may be two ways of looking at it. First, it may be an endorsement, which may have consequences. The other is say you spot something on the platform and share it for information, says the bench

PTI New Delhi Published 26.02.24, 05:49 PM
Arvind Kejriwal.

Arvind Kejriwal. File picture.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday told the Supreme Court that he made a mistake by retweeting an allegedly defamatory video circulated by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee related to the BJP IT Cell.

A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta, without issuing notice on a plea of Kejriwal challenging a Delhi High Court order which upheld summons issued to him as an accused in the criminal defamation case, asked the complainant whether he wanted to close the matter in view of the chief minister's apology.

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The bench also asked the trial court not to take up the defamation case involving Kejriwal till March 11.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Kejriwal, said, "I can say this much that I made a mistake by retweeting." He added that it is a case for retweeting on social media platform 'X' and the complaint filed was immediately followed by recording of pre-summoning evidence.

"Thereafter, the complaint was withdrawn. When it was refiled, after nine months of the retweeting, it was suppressed that the original complaint was withdrawn," the senior lawyer said.

"Look, you are on a technical point, that may not be good enough," Justice Khanna said and asked Singhvi to show the picture of what was retweeted.

After perusing the retweeted message, the bench said, "When it comes to the question of retweeting, there may be two ways of looking at it. First, it may be an endorsement, which may have consequences. The other is say you spot something on the platform and share it for information. Will all these not be a matter of evidence in the case." Singhvi said that the high court has taken a view.

The bench said, "Whether it was endorsement or sharing of information, it will be a matter of evidence in the trial." Singhvi, while requesting for issuance of notice on the plea said, "I have no problem in admitting that it was a mistake, if these are the consequences. I can say this much that I made a mistake by retweeting." The bench, then asked advocate Raghav Awasthi, appearing for complainant Vikas Sankrityayan, whether he was agreeable to close the case in view of the petitioner accepting it was a mistake. Awasthi replied that he needed instruction from his client and requested a week's adjournment.

Singhvi added, "In view of the elections, they are expediting the trial and trying to prosecute him (Kejriwal) very fast. They are hotfooting it. We will request for adjournment of the case before the trial court." The bench said it is of the view that since the petitioner holds a position, he may not appear before the trial court. It then ordered a stay on the proceeding before the trial court till March 11.

In its judgement on February 5, the high court said that reposting alleged libellous content would attract the defamation law.

It said a sense of responsibility has to be attached while retweeting content about which one does not have knowledge and added that retweeting defamatory content must invite penal, civil as well as tort action if the person retweeting it does not attach a disclaimer.

The high court, while refusing to quash the trial court's 2019 order summoning Kejriwal, had said when a public figure tweets a defamatory post, the ramifications extend far beyond a mere whisper in someone's ears.

"In social media, where information travels at lightning speed and has the potential to reach a global audience, the act of tweeting transforms the communication into a form of public publication. The audience, in this context, is not restricted to those physically present or within immediate earshot but encompasses the vast and diverse online community.

"In the digital age, the boundaries of 'publication' have expanded and the implications of defamation are heightened due to the potential of widespread dissemination," the high court had said.

It had said if the act of retweeting or reposting is allowed to be misused as it is still considered to be a vacant grey area of law, it will encourage people with ill intentions to misuse this vacant field of law and conveniently take a plea that they had merely retweeted a content.

The chief minister had said in the high court that the trial court failed to appreciate that his tweet was not intended or likely to harm the complainant Vikas Sankrityayan.

Kejriwal's plea before the high court said the trial court erred in not providing any reasons for issuing the summons and the orders were 'ex-facie' devoid of judicial application of mind.

Sankrityayan claimed the YouTube video titled 'BJP IT Cell Part II' was circulated by Rathee, who lives in Germany, "wherein a number of false and defamatory allegations were made".

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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