The Delhi high court on Friday issued summons to Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Pawan Khera and Netta D'Souza on a civil defamation suit filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Smriti Irani, and asked them to take down tweets and other social media posts on allegations levelled against the minister and her daughter.
Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development, has sought damages of over Rs 2 crore from the Congress leaders for allegedly making baseless and false allegations against her and her daughter.
The court said in case the defendants fail to comply with its directions to remove tweets, retweets, posts, videos and photos from social media in relation to the allegations made against Irani, and her daughter within 24 hours, social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube shall take down the material.
Irani's action came after the Congress leaders alleged that her 18-year-old daughter Zoish Irani ran a bar illegally in Goa and also targeted the minister over this, demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sack her from his cabinet.
The high court said 'slanderous and bogus' allegations were made against Irani and added that, "Plaintiff has made out a prima facie case and balance of convenience lies in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants".
"I am of the prima facie view that slanderous allegations were made against the plaintiff without verifying actual facts. Grave injury has been caused to the reputation of the plaintiff in view of the tweets and retweets carried out due to the press conference of the defendants," the judge said.
The judge further said, "I deem it proper to pass an interim injunction directing defendants 1-3 (Congress leaders) to delete and remove the allegations made during the press conference from all social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter."
They are also directed to remove the post, videos, tweets, retweets, morphed pictures of plaintiff and her daughter along with the allegations and stop their recirculation, the court said.
The matter is now listed for further hearing before the court and registrar on November 15 and August 18, respectively.
During the hearing, Irani's counsel submitted that she is a respected citizen of the country and the three Congress leaders with pre-planned conspiracy of defaming and maligning the reputation of the BJP leader organised the press conference on July 23 and made allegations without any substance.
"Not only an individual but the whole society suffers. It becomes worse when you use children to settle political scores. You comment on character. These are supposedly the responsible functionaries of a party and they are holding press conference for this purpose. Don't make statements against the plaintiff's daughter to settle your scores with her," senior advocate N K Kaul, representing Irani, contended.
Irani approached the court after the Congress leaders failed to respond to the legal notice sent to them by her.
The Congress on July 23 had demanded Irani's sacking, alleging her daughter was running an illegal bar in Goa, but the minister had claimed the 'malicious' charge was made at the behest of Gandhi family due to her vocal stand in the National Herald linked money laundering case and vowed to fight back.