Activist Saket Gokhale was asked today by the Delhi High Court to immediately delete tweets against Lakshmi Murdeshwar Puri as the court also stopped him from posting “scandalous” tweets against her and her husband Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
If Mr Gokhale fails to follow the court’s order within 24 hours, Justice C Hari Shankar said, Twitter will take down the posts.
The court also asked Ms Puri, a former Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations, to “implead Twitter as a party to the proceedings”.
Mr Gokhale, in his tweets On June 13 and June 26, referred to some property purchase by Ms Puri in Switzerland while also mentioning her husband.
The court passed the order on a defamation suit filed by Lakshmi Puri, seeking Rs 5 crore as damages from Mr Gokhale and a direction that he removed the tweets.
In her lawsuit, filed through Karanjawala and Company, she alleged that in the tweets, Mr Gokhale has made “false and factually incorrect, per-se defamatory, slanderous and libelous statements/ imputations” against her and her family.
The court, while reading out the order, said: “The defendant (Saket Gokhale) is directed to immediately delete from his Twitter account all tweets against the plaintiff (Ms Puri) which the present plaint makes reference, as well as all connected tweets, which form part of the trail of tweets by the defendant against the plaintiff.”
“The defendant is restrained, pending further orders of this court, from posting any defamatory, scandalous, or factually incorrect tweets on his Twitter account against the plaintiff or her husband,” it said.
The court also issued summons to Mr Gokhale and asked him to file his written statement within four weeks with the case listed before the Joint Registrar on September 10.
Last week, the High Court had questioned Mr Gokhale for tweeting against Ms Puri without verifying facts from her or approaching any government authority.
Observing that right to reputation is recognised as a fundamental right, it had asked Mr Gokhale, also a freelance journalist, as to how he could “vilify people”, particularly when the tweets put out by him were “prima facie incorrect”.
“So according to your understanding of the law, any Tom, Dick and Harry can write anything against anyone on Internet irrespective of the fact that it destroys and damages the reputation of a person,” the judge had remarked.
During the arguments, senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing Ms Puri, had contended that the tweets were “defamatory, malicious and based on false information” and that Mr Gokhale was nobody to put questions to her.
He had said Ms Puri does not hold any public office for these details to be put in public domain and if he was putting her name in public, he should have the minimum civility to ask her before he publishes this which was deliberately ignored.
Advocate Sarim Naved, representing Mr Gokhale, had said as a citizen, he has the right to go into the assets of public functionaries.
He had also said Ms Puri’s husband is a Union Minister and that assets of such people, along with spouse, should be in public domain but in this case, the money received from their daughter is not in public domain.