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Non-Profit Organization Files ₹10,000 Crore Defamation Suit Against BBC


Defamation Suit Against BBC

Justice on Trial, a Gujarat-based non-profit organization, has taken legal action against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) by filing a defamation suit in the Delhi High Court. The suit alleges that BBC's two-part documentary titled 'India: The Modi Question' tarnished India's reputation, its judiciary, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Justice Sachin Datta, a single-judge, granted limited notice on Monday to the petitioner's application seeking permission to file the suit as an indigent person. The NGO is seeking damages of ₹10,000 crores from BBC.


The Court noted, "It is contended that the said documentary/publication contains content which casts a slur on the reputation of the country and also makes false and defamatory imputations and insinuations against the Prime Minister of India, the Indian Judiciary, and the Indian criminal justice system... It is averred that the aforesaid conduct of the respondents is actionable."


The Court has ordered that notice be served to the respondents through all permissible modes, returnable on September 25.


An indigent person, as defined by Order XXXIII of the Code of Civil Procedure, refers to someone who lacks the financial means or resources to pay the prescribed fee for filing a suit. This provision enables an indigent person to institute a suit.


Senior Advocate Harish Salve represented the organization, arguing that the documentary defamed India and its entire system, including the judiciary.


Previously, a district court in Delhi had issued summons to the BBC in response to a defamation suit filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Binay Kumar Singh regarding the same documentary. Singh claimed that despite the ban imposed by the Indian government, the documentary's content was still accessible on the internet through links provided on a dedicated Wikipedia page. Singh sought an injunction against BBC, Wikimedia, and Internet Archive to prevent the publication of the documentary or any other material against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).


The BBC argued in response that the court lacked jurisdiction to handle the defamation case. The case is scheduled for arguments on May 26.


In April, the Delhi High Court overturned an order by Delhi University (DU) that had barred Lokesh Chugh, the national secretary of the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), from the university. The restriction was imposed due to Chugh's alleged organization of a screening of the controversial documentary.


(Note: The earlier version of the story erroneously stated that summons had been issued to the BBC regarding the suit itself. However, the Court order clarified that only notice has been issued to the broadcaster based on the plaintiff's application seeking permission to file the suit as an indigent person under Order XXXIII of the CPC. The story has been modified to rectify the error.)

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