Lalit Modi threatening to take Rahul Gandhi to UK court may not be possible, say UK legal experts

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Lalit Modi threatening to take Rahul Gandhi to UK court may not be possible, say UK legal experts

In the UK, a defamatory statement is one "which injures the reputation of another person; it tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally".

Rahul Gandhi, when at an election rally, said "all chowkidars are chor", battery of reactions started pouring in.

Deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi had filed a defamation case against Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Lalit Modi too wasn't far behind as he intended to do the same.

Lalit Modi threatened to take Rahul Gandhi to court in the UK for the controversial comment the Congressman recently made about the Modi surname.

Lalit Modi took to Twitter and wrote, "The papu @rahulgandhi says 'all Modis are chors'. Well, he will be taken to court in the UK by me. But, reality is that the world knows 5 decades of daylight looting of India was, and is done by none other than the Gandhi family."

Expert on such matters and founder of Zaiwalla & Co, Sarosh Zaiwalla, said, "In my view, English court will not have jurisdiction to hear Lalit Modi's claim because the alleged defamatory statement was published in India and not in the UK. An oral defamatory allegation constitutes defamation. A written allegation constitutes libel. The court where the oral allegation was made and hence published by Rahul Gandhi was India and so, as against Rahul Gandhi, only Indian court will have jurisdiction."

In the case of libel, an English jurisdiction can arise if the written allegation is read in England, for example; if an Indian newspaper has published a libel and the newspaper is sold in England.

Pointing to the comment being of a rather 'generic' nature, Darshan Azad, a solicitor-advocate in England, on the case said, "The general position in law is that if comments have caused 'serious harm', a defamatory statement can be actionable under the Defamation Act 2013. However, groups who do not have a legal personality cannot make a claim. This means, for example, that groups of people, which in this case would be supporters of PM Modi, unless they are targeted as individuals, cannot claim for defamation. If a defamatory statement is made about a group or class of people and the group is small enough or the statement is presented in such a way that it is understood to refer to an individual or individuals who are members of the group or class, then those individuals may have a claim."

In the UK, a defamatory statement is one "which injures the reputation of another person; it tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally".

A defamation case (that the issue might fall under) is bifurcated into; one is slander and the other libel.

It is libel when it is published, in writing, pint or some other permanent form. A statement is called 'slander' if it is published and made orally or in some transient form.

If made in a different jurisdiction and in 'general terms' it becomes rather difficult to sue in the UK.