New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has restrained the sale and publication of a book purportedly on the life of Yoga guru Ramdev who claimed that it had defamatory content.
Justice Anu Malhotra said the right to reputation of a living individual cannot be “crucified” at the “altar of the right to freedom of speech and expression” of another. The court’s observation came on a petition filed by Ramdev against the book titled ‘Godman To Tycoon,’ saying the book, purportedly on his life, had defamatory content and harmed his economic interests and reputation.
“This is so as the right to reputation of a living individual under Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be sacrificed and crucified at the altar of the right to freedom of speech and expression of another… “…and both have to be harmonised and balanced in as much as no amount of damages can redeem the damage to reputation of any person and merely because there have been previous publications on the same issue, the same does not permit any repetitions of prima facie defamatory insinuations against him,” the court said.
Ramdev had approached the high court to set aside a trial court order removing the ban on the publication and sale of the book. In August last year, an additional civil judge had restrained publisher Juggernaut Books from publishing and selling the book till further orders.
It had also restrained Amazon India and Flipkart Internet Pvt Ltd from selling it online and stopped its pending deliveries to buyers. On 28 April this year, however, an additional senior civil judge (ASCJ) had removed the ban. The book is penned by journalist Priyanka Pathak Narain.
The high court restrained the publishing of the book saying the person about whom the book is written is a “living human being” who was entitled to be treated with dignity. It also said that the portions of the book “which make readers think that he is an ambitious villain,” until so proved in the court of law, are necessarily to be restrained from being published and distributed for sale till disposal of the case pending before the lower court.
“Thus, as the petitioner (Ramdev) about whom the book is written about is living human being and thus entitled to be treated with dignity and has a right of social reputation as an ordinary citizen even if he be a public figure, and as reputation is a cherished value and an element of personal security…,” the court said.
The book was released on 29 July 2017, and Ramdev had approached the trial court on 4 August that year. The high court stayed an order of the additional senior civil judge (ASCJ) lifting the ban on publication and sale of the book. It also granted interim relief to Ramdev while hearing his plea challenging the ASCJ’s order.
Ramdev’s counsel had claimed that the allegations in the book relating to the Yoga guru’s life were incorrect. The author, however, told the high court that at the end of the book, there were extracts of the facts, including the details of persons whom she had interviewed before writing the book.
The publisher had said the extracts of the material in the book were already in public domain since 2007 and Ramdev had never raised any objection. The counsel said the entire record of the trial court has not been placed before the high court. Challenging the civil judge’s 28 April order lifting the ban on the book, Ramdev had, in his suit, alleged that the information in the book was false.
He said it tended to injure his reputation and led to an inference that the Yoga guru had been involved in mischievous and criminal activities to achieve fame and success. The publisher had earlier said that the book was a work of serious journalism. It was the product of over 50 interviews, many of them taped, with Ramdev and the key players in his life, including close aides and family members, it had said.
“The book contains a detailed 25-page note on sources that lists the interviews, articles, police reports and RTI replies that are the basis of each chapter,” the publisher had said in a statement.