[Defamation Case] Delhi HC Refers Gautam Gambhir’s Suit Against Punjab Kesari For Mediation

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Gambhir has sued Punjab Kesari, its editor-in-chief, and two reporters for the paper's stories.

The Delhi High Court, on Monday, took a significant step in the defamation suit filed by former cricketer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Gautam Gambhir against the Hindi newspaper "Punjab Kesari."

The suit, seeking damages amounting to Rs. 2 crore over purportedly defamatory articles published against Gambhir, has been referred to mediation by the court.

The matter was referred to mediation by Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma after it was noted that it could be amicably settled between the parties. 

During the hearing today, Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai on behalf of Gambhir submitted that the matter is likely to be amicably settled between the parties and suggested that it be referred for mediation for the recording of the terms and conditions of the settlement.

"The counsel for the plaintiff submits that the matter is likely to be amicably settled and be referred to mediation for recording the terms and conditions of the settlement. The matter is referred to mediation," Justice Sharma said. 

The matter is listed for mediation on February 29 and before the court on March 12. 

The news reports include:

i. On 16th May, 2022, Newspaper article titled ‘Sansad Gautam Gambhir Lapata Gali-Gali Me Lage Poster’.
ii. On 27th May, 2022, Newspaper article titled 'Dilli ke lapata Sansad Lucknow Super
Giants ke liye bane Bhasmasur'.

iii. On 29th May, 2022, Newspaper article titled ‘Ye Naye Mijaz ke Sansad hai Jara Faaslo se Mila Karo’.
iv. On 15th June, 2022, Newspaper article titled ‘Adesh Gupta bolte reh gaye, Gautam Gambhir uth chale’.
v. On 28th August, 2022, Newspaper article titled ‘Bhajpa Neta ki Dabangai: Mahila SHO ko karaya Line Haazir’.
vi. On 10th November, 2022, Newspaper article published titled ‘Umeedwaroon ke namon ko lekar Bhajpa Vidhayakon va Jila-addhyakshon ke beech kheench-taan”

Notably, in May 2023, the bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh had refused to pass any interim injunction in the suit. 

Gambhir had also sought an "unconditional apology" from the defendants and that the same should be published in all newspapers (including digital) circulated by Punjab Kesari.

Dehadrai had contended, “I am a very well-known public servant. I have been captain of the Indian cricket team and now represent the East Delhi constituency. I have earned many laurels for the country. My prayer is that this publication is targeting me. This is not fair and objective reporting”.

Pointing out the language used by the reporters, the counsel had contended, “In one of the articles they even say I practice untouchability. I am a public servant, attacks like this deeply hurt. They're calling me 'Bhasmasur'. I am a mentor of IPL Lucknow Super Giants”.

“These reporters of Punjab Kesari are on some mission. They have some 3 lakh circulation in Delhi and 5 lakhs in Punjab. They have done objective reporting throughout. They have attacked me one after the other. My reputation is based on years of hard work and honesty. I am now a public servant. These articles are tarnishing my reputation. My prayer is that these articles are opinions and should be taken down immediately”, Dehadrai had contended.

To this, the single-judge bench had said, “Nowadays all public servants should be a little less sensitive and thick-skinned... especially seeing how the social media and everything works”.

In a lighter vein, Justice Singh had said, “I would say even the judges should be thick-skinned now.” Furthermore, he said, “You’re a public servant, you need not be so sensitive.”

Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao appeared for the Punjab Kesari and its editor-in-chief and had pointed out the story by the Bar and Bench on the suit being filed. “The difficulty is that this person (Gautam Gambhir) decides to become an MP, he has himself decided to sail in two boats,"  he said. “They are touchy only about Punjab Kesari’s articles, the other articles don’t bother them”, he added.

Upon a bare reading of the impugned news articles, the court had said that it was of the prima facie opinion that many of these articles were indicative of a willful campaign launched by the defendants to lower the reputation of the plaintiff (Gautam Gambhir) in the eyes of his constituents, supporters, and the public at large.

"In the opinion of this court, this does not befit a newspaper of the repute and stature of the defendants to indulge in such conduct", the court had opined.

Case Title: Gautam Gambhir v. Punjab Kesari & Ors.