Supreme Court stays defamation complaint of Jay Shah, scolds media

Wire Journalist Rohini Singh had written a news article “The Golden Touch of Hay Amit Shah”

Hearing the plea of the news-portal the Wire to quash the defamation case filed by Jay Shah, the son of BJP's national president Amit Shah, the Supreme Court stopped the Gujarat trail court from hearing the case till the apex court hears the matter on April 12.

Asserting that his comments were not related to the case, Misra used strong words against electronic media and said, "Many in electronic media think they can write anything".

Senior Advocate N K Kaul, appearing for Jay Shah, said that The Wire story was a "manufactured story, scurrilous reporting" and was meant to damage Shah's reputation.

"If journalism is going to be throttled like this, no journalist can ask questions", he said.

It also asked his lawyer to inform the trial court about proceedings pending before the top court and said the magistrate shall take note of it and "may not proceed with the case". Earlier in February, the High Court in Gujarat had allowed the petition by Jay Shah challenging the order by a lower court that had lifted the gag order barring news portal The Wire to write on the overnight increase in his firm's turnover. "That's not culture of journalism", News18 quoted Justice Misra as saying. Shah had filed civil and criminal defamation charges against The Wire for publishing a piece alleging that his company's assets grew exponentially since the BJP government came to power in 2014.

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After the suit was filed on October 9, 2017, the Gujarat trial court initiated proceedings against The Wire, its promoters and senior staff under CrPC's section 202 (to inquire into a case to decide whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding).

In 2015, Misra had ruled that criticism of historically respected personalities ought to be avoided, and "can be criteria for restricting freedom of speech and expression".

The seven respondents in the case were the author of the article Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddarth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia and M.K. Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, the non-profit company that publishes The Wire. "But the press should be more responsible", he said.

In the ruling passed on March 15, the Apex Court came down heavily on the journalists who write what they think against anyone without basing it on facts. He also added, "We reject any allegation sought to be made against Mr. Jay Shah or any of our leaders".

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