Delhi’s Rohini Court on Friday reserved an order on the point of service of summon to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other parties as per the Hague Convention. The court has reserved an order on this point for July 7. This matter pertains to the controversy over the documentary series “India: The Modi Question” which is banned in the country.
Additional District Judge (ADJ) Ruchika Singla reserved the order after hearing arguments on behalf of BBC (UK), Wikimedia and the Internet Archive. The court also heard the rebuttal arguments by the counsel for the plaintiff. The defendants are at liberty to file written arguments within 10 days, the court directed. The court is hearing a plea seeking a direction restraining the publishing of the BBC Documentary based on PM Modi.
The counsel for BBC submitted that BBC is a foreign entity and service should be served as per the Hague Convention. The counsel also submitted that the plaintiff had used different emails of the entity which is based in the UK. The other defendants Wikipedia Foundation and Internet Archive also adopted the arguments of counsel for BBC.
On the other hand, Advocate Mukesh Sharma, counsel for the plaintiff, argued that BBC (UK) is not a party in the suit. He has filed the suit against BBC India which is not a foreign entity. So there is no question following the process as per Hague Convention in the matter. He also submitted that the purpose of Summon is to make the party aware that a proceeding is in a court of law.
He also submitted that Wikimedia is cherry-picking the issue. The defendants had appeared in a matter in another court without raising the issue of the Hague Convention. In this sense, the summons has been served to the parties as their counsels have appeared before the court and have argued. During the hearing, an application was moved on behalf of Internet Archive for deletion of its name from the list of parties as it has removed the link to the content.
On the last date, BBC and Wikimedia Foundation had raised the point of jurisdiction before the Court. They also submitted that they had not been served properly as per Hague Convention as they are foreign entities.
On May 3, the court issued a summon to these three organisations on a plea moved by Binay Kumar Singh. The court had also directed them to file their written statement within 30 days from the date of service of the summons.
The counsels for the BBC and Wikimedia Foundation had appeared in protest and submitted that they had not been served properly on May 11. The counsel also refused to accept the copy of the plea in the court.
The court noted, “Ld. Counsel for the defendant no. 1 and 2 submit that they are appearing under protest as they have not been served properly as the defendant no. 1 and 2 are foreign entities. Further, Ld. Counsel for the defendant no. 1 and 2 submit that this court does not have the jurisdiction to try the present matter.”
Furthermore, the US-based digital library Internet Archive’s counsel informed the court that the BBC documentary had been removed from its platform. The court noted, “Ld. Counsel for the defendant no. 3 submits that the content has already been removed by the defendant no. 3 and in case the plaintiff has any other objection regarding the same, the defendant no. 3 shall do the needful.”
The court noted, “Ld. Counsel for the defendant no. 1 (BBC) submits that she has not received the copies as the service has not been effected properly upon the defendant no. 1. Ld. Counsel for the plaintiff is ready to supply the copy in the court today, which is not accepted by Ld. Counsel for the defendant no. 1 stating that the same shall be prejudicial to her rights in view of the Hague Convention. She needs time to argue on this point.”
The court noted in the order that the counsel for the plaintiff was ready to supply the copy in the court today, which is not accepted by the counsel for the BBC stating that the same shall be prejudicial to her rights in view of the Hague Convention.
Further, the copies are supplied to the counsel for Wikimedia but it was submitted by the Counsel that the same is also not as per law as per the Hague Convention, the judge noted in the order passed on Thursday.
The petitioner has moved a plea through social media lawyer advocate Mukesh Sharma. The petitioner Binay Kumar Singh has prayed the court to pass an order restraining the Defendants restraining them including their agents, etc. to cease the publishing of the two-volume documentary series “India: The Modi Question” or any other defamatory material pertaining to the Plaintiff, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on the platforms of Wikimedia and Internet Archive or any other online or offline platforms.
The suit states that the allegations made in the documentary against the RSS and the VHP are motivated by malicious intent to defame the organizations and their members. Furthermore, it was alleged that the documentary had created an atmosphere of terror and fear and has the potential to trigger violence and jeopardize public order across the nation.
“The allegations made against the RSS and VHP are motivated by a malicious intent to defame the organisations and its millions of members/ volunteers. Such unfounded allegations are not only baseless but also have the potential to damage the reputation and image of the RSS, VHP and its millions of members/ volunteers, who have committed themselves to upholding the cultural, social and national values of India,” the suit said.
He has also sought to pass a direction to the Defendants ordering them to tender an unconditional apology to the Plaintiff as well as to RSS and VHP for the libellous and defamatory content published in the two-volume documentary series.
The petitioner has also sought damages of Rs 10 lakh from the defendants for alleged defamation caused by the documentary because he is also associated with RSS, VHP and BJP.
[with inputs from ANI]