Hearing the Rs 25 crore defamation suit filed by actor Shilpa Shetty in connection with husband Raj Kundra’s arrest in the pornography case, the Bombay High Court on Friday said that news reports based on police sources cannot be deemed defamatory. The actor had approached the High Court seeking to restrain media houses from publishing ‘defamatory content’ against her. However, the court refused to grant an interim injunction against various news portals and publications accused by actor Shilpa Shetty of indulging in defamatory reporting of her reactions to the arrest of her husband.
The court further told the plaintiff’s lawyer that what the actor was expecting will have serious consequences on the freedom of the press. “Now do you expect the court to sit back and check every source that media houses cite for every single story?” the court asked Shilpa’s lawyer.
The court further said, “You give me individual examples of defendants saying malicious things, I will look into it. But, news reports based on police sources cannot be called malicious and defamatory. What you are expecting me to do will have very serious consequences on freedom of the press.”
“The line between freedom of the press & the right to privacy will have to be balanced. It is possible that freedom of speech may have to be narrowly tailored. But it is not possible to ignore the constitutional pinning of privacy nor to say that if a person is a public figure, that person is deemed to have sacrificed his right to privacy,” Justice Gautam Patel said.
The court also noted that reporting of something that crime branch or police sources said is not defamatory in nature and thus expressed its scepticism on whether a blanket restraint can be ordered. However, the court observed that though Shilpa Shetty is a mother of two and a public figure, it does not mean she has sacrificed her privacy.
“If somebody says anything about Shilpa Shetty, it becomes a big thing, why? what’s so great about it. This is not a law that we have come to a conjecture that it’s defamatory,” said the court.
Earlier yesterday, actor Shilpa Shetty had approached High Court asking for restrictions against defamatory content on social media and websites following her husband Raj Kundra’s arrest in a pornography case. The actor said in her plea that her public image has taken a hit after the controversy and demanded an unconditional apology from certain media houses. The actor also asked for the removal of stories and videos with defamatory content and asked for compensation of Rs 25 crore.
In her application, Shilpa Shetty said the reports published and broadcasted by media houses without verifying details have heavily damaged her character and reputation in front of her fans, family, endorsement companies, and followers. Shilpa had also mentioned that she is being painted as a criminal and a woman who has abandoned her husband due to the ongoing criminal investigation ongoing against Raj Kundra in a porn case. Apart from several media houses, Facebook, Instagram, Google etc social media companies were also named in the petition. She had alleged that the media houses named in her petition were alleging that she was helping her husband, and thus it was defamatory against her.
Following his arrest on charges of producing pornographic films, actress Shilpa Shetty came out in defence of her husband, reported Mid-Day. While quoting a police official, it stated, “Shilpa Shetty said that the movies available on Hotshot are not pornography but erotica. She also said that nowadays, similar content is available on the various OTT platforms, and in fact, some are more obscene than what is available on Hotshot”. According to Mid-Day, she had denied her involvement in the production of the contentious videos.
Arrest of Raj Kundra in pornography case
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale said, “Businessman Raj Kundra has been arrested by the Crime Branch in a case relating to the creation of pornographic films and publishing them through some apps. We have arrested Raj Kundra in this case on July 19, 2021, as he appears to be the key conspirator of this. We have sufficient evidence regarding this. The investigation is in progress.”