Monday, November 14, 2011

SC asks Times Now to deposit 100 cr before HC hears defamation case plea

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to relax a Bombay high court order asking Times Now TV channel to deposit Rs 100 crore – Rs 20 crore in cash and the rest as bank guarantee – before taking up its appeal against a trial court verdict in a defamation case.
Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice P B Sawant, had sued Times Now for mistakenly displaying his photograph in a report on September 10, 2008, about a person (with a phonetically similar sounding name) allegedly involved in the multi-crore Provident Fund scam. A Pune trial court had decreed the suit for Rs100 crore against the TV channel. Times Now had appealed against the trial court verdict, but the Mumbai HC in September this year had asked the TV channel to first deposit Rs 20 crore and provide Rs 80 crore as bank guarantee as a pre-condition for hearing the appeal. Appearing for the TV channel, senior advocate Harish Salve said the channel had apologized for the mistake and had run an apology for five continuous days and requested the apex court to relax the stiff condition of depositing Rs 100 crore as a pre-condition for appeal.
A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya declined to grant relief to petitioner Times Global Broadcasting Company Ltd, which owns the TV channel, saying there was no error in the high court’s interim order. “We find no reason to interfere with high court’s order directing the petitioner to deposit Rs 20 crore and furnish bank guarantee for the rest,” the bench said.
However, the bench clarified that the HC would decide the appeal on its merit without being influenced by the apex court’s decision to dismiss the appeal against the pre-condition of depositing the amount.
When contacted, Times Now channel head Arnab Goswami said, “We are extremely apologetic to Justice Sawant for the mistake and any personal damage done to his reputation because of the inadvertent error of running his picture instead of another judge. The picture ran for only about 15 seconds, and was a genuine oversight in the course of a broadcast. We deeply regret the mistake and assure Justice Sawant that it was not part of any intentional malice in reporting.”

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