|Aparajita Lath – SpicyIP Blogger
Take a good hard look at the photograph on the right. It’s a photograph of one of our youngest bloggers – Aparajita Lath, an innocent 22 year old gifted law student at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), one of the top law schools in India. Do you think this girl is capable of hurting anybody much less defame one of the largest media companies in India?
Well, apparently there is somebody either at Times Publishing House Ltd. or in their lawyer’s office i.e. K. Dutta and Associates, who clearly think Aparajita is capable of defaming them because they recently served her with a legal notice threatening both civil and criminal action. She received the notice on April 23, 2013 for a post she wrote on SpicyIP on February 12, 2013 on the 19 year dispute between the Financial Times Ltd. and the Times Group over the “Financial Times” trademark – apparently it took them a few months to figure out that were feeling defamed.
The Times Publishing House Ltd, is a part of the Times Group which includes companies like Bennett Coleman which publishes what they claim to be one of the largest circulating English newspapers in the world – The Times of India. Other components of this media empire include the television channel – Times Now and the radio company – Entertainment Network India Ltd. (ENIL) which runs the Mirchi brand of radio stations across the country. The entire empire is owned and run mainly by these two men pictured below.
|Samir Jain and Vineet Jain – Picture from here
|The legal notice served on Aparajita by the Times Publishing Houses Ltd. and Shamnad’s fitting response can be accessed over here and here.
According to the legal notice, served on Aparajita, the publication of her post, “caused an irreparable injury and loss of reputation” to Times Publishing House Ltd. The following paragraph is even better: “Pursuant to the publication of the impugned article our Client has been contacted by several persons, inquiring about the same. Our client has been questioned and subjected to contempt and ridicule and has suffered immense prejudice and loss of goodwill, reputation, standing and goodwill in the industry”. Oh my! And I guess the sky is going to fall on our heads next because of one post on this blog.
The allegedly defamatory post by Aparajita can be accessed here
. In the post, she carried an excellent summary of the 19 year old litigation between Financial Times Ltd. and Times of India Group over the trademark “Financial Times” & “FT”. Aparajita’s post had very carefully referenced and summarized a number of articles which appeared in the Mint
about the dispute and from the information we have, the Mint
has not been sued as yet.
The first article
was written by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta one of India’s finest independent journalists. You can see an interview with him over here
. In his article, Paranjoy covers the litigation between FT and TOI extensively and from what I understand he too has received a legal notice from Times Publishing House Ltd. for alleged defamation.
|Paranjoy Guha Thakurta – Image from here
|There is some history of simmering tension between Paranjoy Guha and the Times Group. A few years ago, Paranjoy Guha was one of the authors of a damning Press Council of India report which brilliantly documented the scourge of ‘paid news’ in India. At the time Press Council of India, which is run by the media itself, refused to allow the report to be released to the public and the only reason it became public was because the Central Information Commission ordered the release of the report under the Right to Information Act, 2005. It can be accessed over here. Turns out that the report had documented extensively the practices of Times Group and whether or not these practices would qualify as “paid news”. The report is well worth a read and I’m guessing that it upset the Times Group to no end.
The second article
referenced by Aparajita was an interview by well-known lawyer Harish Salve who is representing FT in this dispute. Salve’s interview is quite candid and he is hardly appreciative of TOI’s strategies in this litigation. We don’t know whether even Salve has received a notice for defamation. Given
|Harish Salve – Image from here
that the notice served on Aparajita has taken objection to Salve’s comment, he too should have received a legal notice otherwise they really can’t sue Aparajita. A third article referenced by Aparajita was by a Mint reporter.
For those of you who have read Aparajita’s post, you will agree with me that there is nothing in her post which even remotely qualifies as defamatory. She has taken care to base each and every assertion on the Mint articles, which them-selves were a fair comment on an issue of public importance. The comments which were not based on the Mint article were also fair comments based on valid facts.
Even presuming, for sake of argument, that some facts were wrong in the post, the remedy is to send us a clarification, more so when the party making such an allegation, is a part of a media conglomerate that claims to publish one of the most circulated English papers in not just India but the world. It is not like the Times of India has never made an error in reporting and if they were to be sued for defamation every time they made a mistake they would have been bankrupt by now. Let me just point out to a few instances of poor reporting by the Times of India which we have documented on this blog. In November last year, we carried this post on how a particular news report in the Bangalore edition of the Times of India was nothing but an unattributed reproduction of a press release. We also carried other posts over hereand herewhere we pointed out the inaccuracy in ToI news reports.
The most egregious portion of the legal notice however is the threat of criminal action against Aparajita for alleged defamation. Egregious, since this comes from a newspaper. The Editors Guild of India has been campaigning for the abolition of criminal defamation laws because their reporters were constantly being threatened under these outdated laws and yet Times Publishing House thinks nothing of threatening criminal action against a 22 year old law student. What makes things worse is the fact that the move to have criminal defamation laws abolished was reported in the Times of India itself over here.
As our readers may know, last year, Shamnad was sued by NATCO for alleged defamation (you can read his defence here) and now Aparajita receives a legal notice threatening legal action – clearly blogging is becoming a riskier activity and the tragedy with increasing risk, is the possibility that bloggers will try to self-censor in the fear of offending giants like the Times Group.
We may not be as big as the Times Group but we are not going down without a fight. We are 100% behind Aparajita in this fight against the Times Group and if she is sued we will provide her with all support. If we submit to this defamation notice today, every Tom, Dick and Harry will be sending us defamation notices every time they are ‘hurt’ and in a country like this it does not take too much for eggshell egos to be hurt at the drop of a hat.