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HC restrains The Wall Street Journal on Indiabulls

Ex parte injunction on matters relating to a 2012 Veritas report; WSJ says will oppose the move

N Sundaresha Subramanian  |  New Delhi 

The high court here has restrained The Wall Street Journal and one of its senior reporters from publishing any report on the Indiabulls group on matters relating to a research report published by Canadian research firm Veritas Investment Corporation in 2012 and a legal tussle that has ensued between the two.

The order followed an application moved by Indiabulls Real Estate, alleging Geeta Anand, a Pulitzer-winning reporter of The Wall Street Journal, had sent it a "threatening email" and was about to publish a "defamatory" article on the group.

Mumbai-based Anand referred queries to a Dow Jones spokeswoman, based in Hong Kong. In an email response, the spokeswoman said, "We are aware of Indiabulls' misconceived suit, which attempts to silence our reporting; we plan to vigorously oppose the action."

When contacted, senior Indiabulls executives declined comment, saying the matter was sub judice.

In an order, judge Jayanth Nath said, "In my view, the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case in its favour. Balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants. The defendants are restrained by an ex parte ad interim injunction from publishing, disseminating or broadcasting reports pertaining to and arising out of the 'Bilking India' report dated August 1, 2012, or any other connected reports defaming the plaintiff till further orders."

The order, dated April 16, 2015, was subsequently, posted on the Delhi High Court website. The order reads, "The plaintiff has now received a threatening email from defendant No.1, who has threatened to publish false and defamatory reports pertaining to and connected with the 'Bilking India' report." It added the petition relied on a judgment of the court in a case between Jindal Steel and Power Chairman Naveen Jindal and Zee Media Corporation.

On the background of the case, Nath said in the order, "It is averred the report titled 'Bilking India' was published by defendants No.3 to 5 (Veritas & Co) on August 8, 2012, via Bloomberg and also on the website of defendant No.3. The report was authored by the India research team of defendant No.3, comprising defendants No.4 and 5 (Neeraj Monga & Nitin Mangal)."

The defendants allegedly attempted to extort money from the plaintiff (Indiabulls) on the pretext of holding back the report. On the same day, the plaintiff filed a complaint and a first information report was registered under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the order said.

In July-August 2014, the defendants (Veritas and Monga) had filed a suit in Canada for damages, assailing a press release by the plaintiff in Delhi. In September 2014, Indiabulls filed a suit for injunction before the court, seeking to restrain the defendants from continuing with the Canadian suit and initiating any further proceedings, the order said.

In April, the injunction was confirmed and a contempt notice was issued against Veritas and the analysts.

The order also noted the police had filed a charge sheet against Mangal under several sections of the IPC and sections 66A and 75B of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

In separate moves, the Supreme Court recently struck down section 66A of the IT Act as unconstitutional and issued notices to the government on a petition by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, questioning the constitutional validity of section 499 of the IPC.

First Published: Fri, May 01 2015. 00:39 IST