Jay Shah Story in Public Interest, What Settlement Can There Be, Asks The Wire's Lawyer

The stay on criminal defamation proceedings initiated by the son of BJP president Amit Shah, will continue till July, says Supreme Court.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned The Wire defamation matter to the first week of July while continuing its stay on criminal defamation proceedings against the news portal filed by Jay Amit Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah.

When asked by the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra if any settlement could be explored between the parties, The Wire’s counsel Nitya Ramakrishnan said the article was a factual report published in discharge of public duty to inform the citizenry and thus it was not clear what the settlement could be in the circumstances.

The Wire was represented by Kapil Sibal, Nitya Ramakrishnan and Raju Ramachandran.

In her account of the proceedings, the Hindustan Times’s Supreme Court reporter tweeted that Jay Shah’s counsel said his client was “open to a settlement”.

On March 15, a three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and also comprising Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud,  had issued notice on The Wire‘s petition seeking quashing of criminal defamation charges filed against it by Jay Shah, listing the matter for April 12. It also stayed the trial court proceedings till then.

On April 12, the same bench extended the stay but said The Wire‘s petition would be heard by another bench.

Though the bench was not specified, the date of April 18 had been set for the final arguments. However, on Wednesday, the matter came up before the CJI’s bench itself.

Jay Shah filed a criminal defamation case in October last year following the publication of a story in The Wire on his business affairs. He also filed a separate civil defamation suit seeking Rs 100 crore in damages from The Wire, its editors, its ombudsman – whose task is to address reader complaints post-publication – and the journalist who wrote the story, Rohini Singh.

The Wire is appealing the Gujarat high court’s refusal to quash the criminal proceedings.

An injunction granted to Shah by the civil court in Ahmedabad soon after the story’s publication was reversed by the same court but later reimposed by the Gujarat high court. The Wire has also sought to appeal that decision in the Supreme Court but the matter is yet to be listed.

11 defamation cases against The Wire so far

Including the two cases – criminal and civil defamation – filed by Jay Amit Shah, The Wire is dealing at present with 10 cases of defamation. Six of those – three criminal defamation cases and three civil defamation cases seeking damages of Rs 100 crore each – have been filed by different companies of the Adani group. Two civil defamation cases have been filed by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar seeking damages of Rs 20 crore each for an article on his involvement with Republic TV and another on his membership of the parliamentary standing committee for defence. The total damages being claimed against The Wire add up to Rs 440 crore.

An eleventh case – of criminal defamation – was filed in a court in Mizoram by a company owned by Rajya Sabha MP and Zee Television owner Subhash Chandra, but later withdrawn after The Wire obtained a stay on the proceedings from the Gauhati high court.