The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to quash the summoning order issued by the trial court in a criminal defamation case registered against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for retweeting a video of YouTuber/ Social Media Influencer Dhruv Rathi in May 2018.
The Court said that at times, it is difficult to erase the reputational injury from public memory, as the tweets may be deleted but perceptions are difficult to delete from the minds of the community.
Justice Swarna Kanta while passing the order held that retweeting content, which is allegedly defamatory, on the Twitter account and projecting it to be as if his views, will prima facie attract liability under Section 499 of IPC, for issuance of summons.
“Therefore, this Court finds no infirmity with the impugned orders passed by the learned Trial Court as well as learned Sessions Court.
Accordingly, the present petition stands dismissed,” Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma said.
“In today’s digital age, the dynamics of the law change, as exemplified by the present case, where this Court has been posed with a situation where reputational harm has been alleged by the complainant by a repost in cyberspace,” the court noted.
“In this evolving digital age, physical damage to someone’s reputation is not the only possibility but it is the cyber world that now has taken over the real world, where if any defamatory statement is made, the effect of reputational harm is amplified. In the realm of defamation, statements made in the physical world may resemble a mere whisper, but when echoed in the cyber domain, the impact magnifies exponentially,” it noted further.
On May 6, 2018, Dhruv Rathee i.e., the original author of the impugned/alleged defamatory content uploaded a video on YouTube, wherein inter alia, certain allegations were made against the respondent which has been referred to as ‘First Offending Publication’ in the petition.
On May 7, 2018, Dhruv Rathee published on his Twitter account, an allegation that the Information and Technology Cell of Bharatiya Janata Party had attempted to bribe a person to defame Dhruv Rathee and he had drawn a reference to Uniform Resource Locator of the first impugned publication, which has now been termed as ‘Second Offending Publication’ in the petition.
The petitioner herein, Arvind Kejriwal had reposted i.e. “retweeted” the second offending publication of Dhruv Rathee.
On February 28, 2019, a complaint was filed by the complainant/respondent Vikas Sankritayan against the petitioner Arvind Kejriwal, for initiating proceedings against him for the commission of offences punishable under Section 499/500 of IPC.
In the matter, the trial court summoned Arvind Kejriwal as an accused by the ACMM with summoning order dated July 17, 2019.
Against the trial court order, Arvind Kejriwal had moved the High Court seeking quashing of the summons issued against him as an accused in the case.