Delhi High Court asks Twitter to take down Audrey Truschke's tweets alleging plagiarism by historian Vikram Sampath

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Friday, February 25, 2022, 10:42 AM IST
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Delhi High Court | ANI

The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed social media giant Twitter to take down several tweets made by academician Audrey Truschke against historian Dr. Vikram Sampath over allegations of plagiarism by him concerning his work on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The bench of Justice Amit Bansal also sought the response of Meta Inc, the parent company of social media platform Facebook, on an application filed by Vikram Sampath alleging defamatory content has been circulated on the platform. Advocate Raghav Awasthi and Advocate Mukesh Sharma appeared for plaintiff Vikram Sampath.

Earlier, in an interim order court had restrained several historians including Audrey Truschke, Ananya Chakravarti, Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University, Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor of Communications at Santa Clara University, from publishing any defamatory content (online and offline) about Vikram Sampath and observing that the plaintiff has made a prima facie case.

Recently Historian Audrey Truschke and others have accused Vikram Sampath of plagiarism and wrote a letter dated February 11, 2022, to the Royal Historical Society (RHS) in London and made serious allegations of plagiarism against Sampath with respect to his two-volume biography of Savarkar. Sampath is also a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Justice Amit Bansal's direction came while hearing a fresh application by Sampath in which he said that pursuant to the February 11 letter, Truschke and others sent another communication to the society alleging further plagiarism in his work and this was also posted on Twitter and Facebook.

The court, in an interim order on February 18, had restrained the publication of any defamatory material and the letter written to the society making allegations of plagiarism.

The interim order was passed against academicians Truschke, Chakrabarti, Chopra, and Ashok Swain as well as freelance journalist Abhishek Baxi on the defamation suit.

The court also issued summons to Facebook as the letter was also posted on the social media platform.

On February 18, the court had issued a summons on the suit to the individuals as well as the Centre and Twitter and said that the plaintiff historian made out a prima facie case for the grant on ad-interim protection as the content of the letter were damaging his career and reputation.

"The continued publication of the letter has been causing considerable damage to the plaintiff's reputation and career. Balance of convenience is also in his favour and irreparable damage will be caused if the injunction is not granted," the court had said.

"Consequently, till the next date of hearing, defendants no 1 (Dr. Audrey Truschke), 2 (Dr. Ananya Chakrabarti), 3 (Dr. Rohit Chopra), 6 (Abhishek Baxi), and 7 (Ashok Swain) are restrained from publishing the letter dated February 11, 2022, or any other defamatory material on Twitter as well as any other online or offline platforms," it had added.

The court had noted Twitter's stand if ordered, it would take down the specific tweets which are allegedly defamatory and placed the case for further hearing on April 1.

In the plea, the plaintiff said that he is the author of a critically acclaimed biography of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London.

The plaintiff informed the court that earlier this month, Truschke, Chakrabarti, and Chopra wrote to the Society making serious allegations of plagiarism with respect to the two-volume biography of Savarkar.

Subsequently, Baxi and Swain took to Twitter to post defamatory tweets against the plaintiff, it was stated.

Lawyer Raghav Awasthi, appearing for Sampath, had said the allegations of plagiarism were baseless considering that the piece contained due citations, attributions, and footnotes.

"I have cited all authors. As a scholar, all I have is my reputation amongst my peers. My academic reputation will go for a toss," the lawyer said.

In the plea filed through lawyer Mukesh Sharma, apart from seeking an injunction against the named individuals, the plaintiff has also sought around Rs two crore as damages.

The plea has claimed that it is at the receiving end of an "international smear campaign" to discredit him "because he has shown the academic courage and gumption to challenge the prevailing narrative around a historical figure like Sh. V.D. Savarkar".

Counsel for one of the individual defendants had opposed the interim order and stated that the issue of plagiarism was wider than that of copyright infringement and there were "sentences lifted verbatim".

Twitter's counsel had stated that the platform, which is an intermediary, "can't police the letter" but if ordered by the court, it would take down specific tweets whose URL is "clearly identified".

(With inputs from Agencies)

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