In a major setback to online news portal ‘The Wire’, the Gujarat High Court on February 20, 2018 has ordered to restore the ex parte injunction which in effect bars the website from publishing any further report on Jay Shah, the son of BJP president Amit Shah, and his firm, Temple Enterprise Private Ltd.’s turnover which, according to a report, had increased 16,000 times in the year after Narendra Modi was elected as Prime Minister following which a defamation suit worth Rs 100 crore was filed by the Jay Shah against The Wire. The attempt by The Wire, a known anti-establishment news website to link the fortunes of Jay Shah to the rise of Shri Narendra Modi was shameful and can only be called, for lack of a better term, a cheap shot to slander the Prime Minister.
Justice Paresh Upadhyay had allowed the appeal petition moved by Jay Shah against a trial court order, which had lifted the injunction against The Wire while restraining it from linking the article to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While quoting the trial court’s (Stated later in this report) finding which had lifted the ex parte injunction but restrained The Wire from linking it to Modi’s election, the HC’s order clearly states, “The defendants have failed to show any justification about the nexus of the Prime Minister with the increase in the business of the plaintiff’s company”.
The trial court has also recorded its satisfaction to the effect that, “…the defendants have failed to show any direct or indirect nexus of association with the Prime Minister as regards the increase in the business of the plaintiff. The defendants have failed to show any justification to the effect that following the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, the plaintiff has flourished.” (In short and in layman terms- The Wire failed to point out any solid leads that linked the Prime Minister’s elevation and the rise in fortunes of Jay Shah).
The HC’s order also states that while the trial court was required to pass an appropriate restraining order and grant relief to the plaintiff (which it did) but it erred by restricting the relief in favour of the plaintiff by limiting it to ‘referring to the name of the Prime Minister’. The Gujarat High Court has now rectified this error.
Earlier on January 9, 2018, The Gujarat High Court had held that there is a prima facie case against The Wire’s reporter and editors who stated that “the most disturbing part of the article”, which can be “prima facie termed as defamatory”, is linking the rise in Jay Shah’s firm’s turnover with the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
It is worth noting that as per the open records of the Registrar of Companies (RoC), the balance sheets annual reports of Jay Shah’s firm obtained from the RoC reveal that in the financial years ending March 2013 and 2014, it had engaged in negligible activity and recorded losses of Rs 6,230 and Rs 1,724 respectively. In 2014-15, it showed a profit of Rs 18,728 on revenues of only Rs 50,000 before jumping to a turnover of Rs 80.5 crore in 2015-16. However, in October 2016, the company stopped its business activities altogether after it posted a loss that year of Rs 1.4 crore and its losses over the previous years. Not only this, the repayment of various loans taken by Shah’s company were regular and followed due process of law.
An Ahmedabad court had vacated an ex parte order on October 12, 2017 by placing an absolute restraint on the publication of the aforementioned article by The Wire. It had also restrained the news website from indirectly or directly linking the article with Prime Minister Narendra Modi till the final disposal of the defamation suit filed by Jay Shah. The Fourth Additional Civil Judge, Mirzapur, Ahmedabad, Badri Kamalkumar Dasondi, on December 23, had passed a 26-page order in which it restricted The Wire or the concerned parties involved from indirectly or directly using the words “since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister/following the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister” on the basis of the article in any manner. The court had also noted that ““Defendants have failed to show the direct or indirect nexus of association with the Honourable Prime Minister as regards to increase in the businesses of the plaintiff [Jay Shah]. The defendants have failed to show, rather no justification has been placed for relating it to the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Hence, at this juncture, the same needs to be restrained qua that position.”