HC asks Indiabulls firm director to respond to Bhushan's plea to quash defamation case

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Monday sought response from a director of one of the subsidiaries of Indiabulls Group on a plea by advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking quashing of criminal defamation complaint filed against him for making alleged defamatory statements regarding functioning the group and its promoters and directors on social media.

The court also granted exemption to Bhushan from his personal appearance before a trial court which is hearing the defamation complaint.

Justice Yogesh Khanna issued notice to complainant Bhavya Narwal, director of Indiabulls Venture Capital Management Pvt Ltd, and sought her response on the petition.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on July 12.

“In the facts and circumstances of the case, let notice be issued to the respondent (Narwal) for the next date of hearing on July 12. Meanwhile, let the presence of the petitioner (Bhushan) before the trial court be exempted through his counsel,” the judge said.

The high court was hearing the petition by Bhushan seeking quashing of an October 2019 summoning order passed by a Rohtak court on the complaint, which was transferred to a Delhi court in 2020 following order of the Supreme Court.

He has also challenged a December 9, 2020 order passed by the patiala house court, where the matter is pending, issuing notice to him to appear.

Advocate Kamini Jaiswal, representing Bhushan, argued that the case was nothing but a malicious attempt to harass the petitioner and the defamation complaint was filed to obstruct the course of justice.

The plea, filed through advocate Neha Rathi, said Narwal has no locus to file the complaint as she was not an aggrieved person and there was no mention of her in Bhushan's September 14, 2019 tweet.

“The tweet was made in public interest and does not even mention the company the complainant works for. Moreover, Bhavya Narwal is not even directly linked to IBHFL but to Indiabulls Venture Capital Management, which is one of the hundreds of other such subsidiaries of IBHFL. The said tweet only mentions the promoter of IBHFL. Thus, if there possibly could be any aggrieved person it could only be the promoter, who has chosen not to file any complaint of defamation against the petitioner herein. Thus, the instant complaint case deserves to be quashed,” the petition claimed.

It added that the tweet was made to alert the authorities into the irregularities and illegalities being committed by promoters of Indiabulls Housing Finance Limited (IBHFL), against a possible loss to the exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees that IBHFL/ its promoters have borrowed from public banks and institutions.

The same is an exception to the offence of defamation under Section 499 (defamation) under the IPC and as such protects the petitioner, it added.

The 2019 complaint has alleged that Bhushan has made defamatory statements regarding the functioning of Indiabulls group, its promoters, officials and directors through social media sites -- Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

It has alleged that the Bhushan has caused substantial damage to the goodwill and reputation of Indiabulls group as well as of its promoters, directors and officials including Narwal. PTI SKV SA