CASE TITLE: V. Senthil Balaji Vs. Shankar
CORAM: HON’BLE JUSTICE K.KUMARESH BABU.
Date of Decison: Reserved on 20.03.2023
Delivered on 16.06.2023
CITATION: A.No.1045 of 2023 in C.S.No.172 of 2022
The case of V.Senthil Balaji Vs. A.Shankar is a defamation case filed by Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji against YouTuber Savukku Shankar. In August 2022, Senthil Balaji filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking an injunction against Shankar from making any defamatory statements against him on social media.The court granted the injunction and restrained Shankar from making any such statements.
However, Shankar continued to make derogatory statements against Senthil Balaji on social media. In February 2023, Senthil Balaji filed a contempt petition against Shankar in the Madras High Court. The court found Shankar guilty of contempt and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him.
The case was filed by V. Senthil Balaji, a Minister in the Government of Tamil Nadu, against Shankar alias Savukku Shankar, a YouTuber. Shankar had made a number of videos and statements about Balaji on his YouTube channel, alleging that he was corrupt and had engaged in various wrongdoings. In these videos and posts, Shankar made a number of defamatory statements about Senthil Balaji, including allegations that he was corrupt, had links to the underworld, and had been involved in the death of a former colleague. Balaji claimed that these statements were defamatory and that they had damaged his reputation.
- The main issue in the case was whether Shankar’s statements were defamatory.
- If they were defamatory, then Balaji was entitled to an injunction restraining Shankar from making further statements.
Senthil Balaji’s case: Senthil Balaji filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking an injunction against Shankar from making any further defamatory statements about him. He argued that Shankar’s statements had damaged his reputation and caused him considerable distress. He also argued that Shankar’s statements were false and malicious.
Counter Case of Shankar: Shankar defended his actions by arguing that he was entitled to freedom of speech. He argued that he was simply reporting on matters of public interest and that his statements were true. He also argued that Senthil Balaji was a public figure and that he should therefore be more tolerant of criticism.
Decision of the Madras High Court:
The Madras High Court granted Senthil Balaji’s petition and issued an injunction restraining Shankar from making any further defamatory statements about him. The court found that Shankar’s statements were false and malicious and that they had caused Senthil Balaji considerable distress. The court also found that Shankar’s statements were not protected by freedom of speech because they were not made in the public interest. There are a few ways to protect freedom of speech in the face of defamatory statements about public figures. One way is to have strong anti-SLAPP laws in place. SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation, and these laws are designed to protect people from being sued for defamation when they speak out about matters of public interest.
Since the conduct of the respondent was very much negligent without any remorse impinging upon the majesty of the Court, The court direct the respondent to pay a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- to the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, within a period of four weeks from today. He shall also file an affidavit of undertaking that in future he shall guard himself against violating any orders passed by any Court, or even make any comments which may impinge the majesty of the Courts. Such affidavit shall be filed within a period of four weeks from today.
The V.Senthil Balaji Vs. A.Shankar case is a landmark case that sets a precedent for the protection of the reputation of public figures from defamatory statements made on social media. The case also highlights the importance of freedom of speech and the need to balance it with the right to privacy and reputation. Since the Respondent act was “Contempt”, is the crime of being disobedient to order passed by court it imposed a fine of Rupees 1 lakh to the Youtuber.
JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY JANGAM SHASHIDHAR