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News: Indian cricket captain M S Dhoni granted surprising defamation injunction

M S DhoniOn Tuesday 18 March 2014, the Madras High Court granted the captain of the Indian cricket team, M S Dhoni, a surprising interim defamation injunction to restrain the publication of match fixing allegations.

The Times of India reports that the injunction was against Zee Media Corporation Limited, an Indian television conglomerate, and News Nation Network Private Limited, another private television news channel, from airing any interviews or news related to match fixing allegations.

The allegations were made following the submission of a sealed envelope – said to contain names of high-profile players allegedly involved in corrupt practices – to the Supreme Court by the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee investigating allegations of match fixing in the Indian Premier League. A police officer, G Sampath Kumar – who had given evidence to the Mudgal committee – had alleged in an interview to various news channels that Dhoni’s name had been mentioned by an alleged bookie during interrogation with regard to fixing the game between Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals on May 12, 2013.

According to the Telegraph, Dhoni  complained of  “highly defamatory scandalous, libellous and malicious false reports and statements” being made by the defendants who he alleged were “acting in concert”.  The affidavit in support stated:

“Since February 11, 2014, Zee Media Corporation Limited (Zee News) and Sudhir Chaudhary, editor and business head of the channel in collusion with G. Sampath Kumar have been telecasting and broadcasting and hosting false news reports insinuating that the plaintiff (Dhoni) was involved in the illegal activities of betting, match fixing and spot fixing.

“News Nation Network Private Limited also joined the tirade against him and went to the extent of stating that he was summoned by the Tamil Nadu Police, which he claimed was utterly false.

“The reports that were broadcast by the news networks revolved around the IPL team Chennai Super Kings of which Dhoni is the captain and the alleged involvement of him in match-fixing devastated the reputation and image of Dhoni in the eyes of millions of fans all over the world.

Dhoni said that the broadcasts had been made with an intention to project him as an object of hate and ridicule to the general public, especially fans of Chennai Super Kings in Chennai, who have been negatively influenced by malicious and false reports.

In granting the injunction the judge, Mr Justice S Tamilvanan, said “I am of the view that there is a prima facie case and the balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff. Hence, interim injunction granted for a period of two weeks.”

The Zee Media Corporation responded that it had not shown any footage or dialogue to malign the image of Dhoni.  It said that it was a responsible news channel that its broadcast was based  on a sting operation as well as the Mugdal report.  It said

“The news channel has done the sting operations based on the facts which were in the public domain as series of stories were already filed/published by various media organisations from February 10 to 1, 2014.  To further clarify the said issue, Zee Media Corporation Limited has already moved an intervention application along with the evidence in its possession before the Honorable Supreme Court of India in the pending SLP filed by Cricket Association of Bihar”.

The grant of the injunction was surprising because the rule in Bonnard v Perryman forms part of the law of India.  As a result, the court should exercise exceptional caution when exercising the jurisdiction to grant an interim injunction to restrain publication.  In the 2011 case of Tata Sons Limited v Greenpeace International, the Delhi High Court said

“the rule in Bonnard is as applicable in regulating grant of injunctions in claims against defamation, as it was when the judgment was rendered more than a century ago. This is because the Courts, the world over, have set a great value to free speech and its salutary catalyzing effect on public debate and discussion on issues that concern people at large” [43]

It is not clear at present why, in the light of this well established rule, the Madra High Court granted an interim injunction to in this case.  The matter should be clarified when the case returns to court on 1 April 2014.

1 Comment

  1. Gordon

    See: http://readyflowersreview.hk as to whether an interim injunction imposed by the Supreme Court of Queensland will stand at the full hearing of the matter. Bonnard v Perryman rule to be argued.

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