Delhi High Court orders YouTuber Gaurav Taneja to remove tweets naming and tagging journalist Shephali Bhatt

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The Delhi High Court on Friday ordered YouTuber Gaurav Taneja to remove tweets he had specifically named and tagged on microblogging site Twitter.

days later Judge Amit Bansal granted an interim order to Taneja ordering the Mint newspaper to remove an allegedly defamatory article published against him under Bhatt’s byline, the journalist filed a request alleging that she was subject to threats from social media followers de Taneja after posting tweets regarding the prosecution proceedings despite the same being sub-judicial.

During today’s hearing, Bhatt’s attorney presented the Court with various tweets posted by Taneja in which her followers, in addition to posting thousands of abusive messages, also posted hashtags against her.

Lawyer Raghav Awasthi appearing for Taneja pledged in court to remove all tweets in which Bhatt was named or tagged by him and not to post any more posts naming or tagging her.

Bhatt’s lawyer argued that Taneja’s “ability to report on legal proceedings” on Twitter having thousands of followers was injurious to his life and freedom.

“My very ability to exist in a public space is in danger,” his lawyer submitted.

Initially, Judge Bansal orally remarked “If a hate campaign is going on against her, that’s not acceptable.”

“I will tell him that he will not identify or name you. This is not a personal vendetta. The case is sub judice…whatever injunction he obtained in his favour, the case is still sub judice.”

During the hearing, Taneja’s attorney, Raghav Awasthi, said that since court case updates are published by legal news portals such as Live Law & Bar and Bench, these portals must also be prevented from publishing anything about the legal proceedings.

Declining Awasthi’s plea to issue a gag order against media portals, Justice Bansal said:

“I can’t gag the media. They don’t belong here. No gag has been passed against you but do not invite comment.”

Subsequently, the attorney representing Twitter informed the Court that prompt efforts will be made to remove the offensive posts in accordance with Twitter policy.

Seeking to respond to the motion within two weeks, the court also granted Taneja the freedom to repost the content of the tweets without naming or tagging Bhatt, adding that the tweets will be closed to comments and retweets.

Journalist Bhatt was represented by Lawyers Swathi Sukumar and Naveen Nagarjuna.

The article in question titled “Shouldn’t brands stop supporting sleazy influencers?” was posted after Taneja posted a photo on Twitter in which he was seen making havan according to Hindu rites.”Hinduism is a way of life based on science. On December 3, 1984, two families were left untouched by the Bhopal gas leak. They performed regularly (हवन), which is a natural antidote to pollution”, Taneja had tweeted.

The tweet led to polarized debates on social media. A columnist named Abhishek Baxi tweeted Taneja’s tweet tagging some brands asking why they are associating with him.

Later, Mint’s article written by columnist Shephali Bhatt was published, which raised allegations of misogyny, child abuse, etc., against Taneja after referring to some videos posted by him, including the one showed him piercing his daughter’s ears.

On July 27, the court granted an interim injunction in favor of Taneja, observing that piercing a girl’s ears does not qualify as child abuse and that allegations of child abuse are serious allegations that cannot be made without due diligence and verification.

The court ordered Mint to remove the article and prohibited author Shephali Bhatt and editor Shruthijith KK from posting, circulating or publishing the article. The court had also ordered Abhishek Baxi to take down the tweet against Taneja, excluding words like “bewakoof” and “idiocy” used by him.

Taneja’s injunction request was dismissed by a Delhi court in June, after which he went to the High Court, claiming the article had caused immense damage to his reputation with sponsors. He had argued that the defamatory material caused him professional loss.

Case Title: KAIRAVIVIEW (OPC) PVT. LTD. & ORS. v. HINDUSTAN TIMES/ MINT & ORS.

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