'Harming Secular Societal Structure Of The Country': HC Directs Removal Of Defamatory Content Against Malabar Gold

'Harming Secular Societal Structure Of The Country': HC Directs Removal Of Defamatory Content Against Malabar Gold

The HC has kept the matter for hearing on July 8, 2024.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Sunday, May 12, 2024, 12:13 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | PTI

Observing that such acts cause harm to the secular societal structure of the country, the Bombay high court has directed removal of prima facie defamatory social media posts making derogatory comments about the CSR initiatives by Malabar Gold Limited and calling for a boycott. Malabar Gold Limited is engaged in the manufacturing and trading of jewellery and other articles made of gold, silver, precious stones, diamonds and premium watches, under the brand name “Malabar Gold and Diamonds”.

The court has aslso directed social media platforms X (Twitter), Instagram, and META Platforms Inc. to take down any posts or comments related to the defamatory content and prohibited the uploading of similar content in the future from specified URLs.

Court Rebukes Selective Posting In Defamation Case, Advocates For Unity And Accurate Representation

The court lambasted the defendant for selectively choosing one photograph, from a collage, that captures a scholarship program extended to girls from the Muslim community while ignoring the broader initiative of empowering girls through education. 

Justice Bharati Dangre, while directing removal of the alleged defamatory content, noted that the quote by Martin Luther King Jr. is squarely applicable to the present case – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness...only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate and only love can do that…”

The judge said this selective posting is damaging the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiff, with the potential to create divisions in society. “The Defendant No.1 may carry her own opinion on an issue, but by uploading only one particular photograph out of the entire stack of photographs clicked, when the scholarships were conferred upon the girl child across wide spectrum, without verifying the veracity of post, definitely would cause harm to the secular societal structure of the country and in particular when the post prima facie is baseless,” Justice Dangre added. 

Malabar Gold Files Defamation Suit, Seeks Damages Of Rs 70 Crore

The dissemination of misleading information on various social media platforms is an intentional effort to harm the plaintiff's reputation, the judge said. Malabar filed a suit claiming damages of Rs 70 crore alleging that defamatory posts uploaded by the defendants Kajal Shingala, Murali Iyengar and Shefali Vaidya could irreparably damage its reputation in the business world. It also added that the communal nature of the posts and their potential to incite division in society.

The suit sought an injunction against Shingala stating that there is an attempt to tarnish its image through campaign “#BoycottMalabar”.  Pending hearing in the suit, malabar filed an interim seeking restraint against the defendants.

Allegations of Defamation And Social Media Backlash Against Malabar Gold

According to the suit, Shingala allegedly picked a photograph from its scholarship distribution event, specifically focusing on girls from the Muslim community, and posted derogatory comments on social media platforms. The posts insinuated that the company shows favouritism in its scholarship distribution based on religion, leading to calls for boycotting the company. Defendants Murali Iyengar and Shefali Vaidya echoed similar sentiments through their social media accounts. 

However, following a notice from malabar, Iyengar and Vaidya removed their social media posts. The court directed Shingala to immediately remove the defamatory content from her social media and restrained her from issuing further defamatory statements against Malabar Gold. The HC has kept the matter for hearing on July 8, 2024.

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