Delhi court does not have jurisdiction over BBC, says BBC on Modi documentary case

BBC and Wikimedia Foundation have submitted in a Delhi court that it does not have jurisdiction to try a defamation suit filed by a BJP leader against BBC documentary on PM Modi

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

NH Political Bureau

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Wikimedia Foundation have submitted in a Delhi court that it does not have jurisdiction to try a defamation suit filed by a BJP leader seeking to restrain them from publishing the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi or any other material related to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Additional District Judge (ADJ) of Rohini Courts Ruchika Singla noted: "Counsel for defendants no. 1 (BBC) and 2 (Wikimedia Foundation) submit that they are appearing under protest as they have not been served properly as defendants... are foreign entities. Further, counsel for defendants...submit that this court does not have the jurisdiction to try the present matter."

US-based digital library Internet Archive's counsel submitted that the content was already taken down and if any objections still persist, it would look after that, too.

However, on request, the court adjourned the matter to be heard on May 26. On May 3, the court issued summons to the three (defendants and the plaintiff).

"Issue summons of the suit for settlement of issues to the defendant on filing of PF and e-mode returnable on next date of hearing. PF be filed today itself. The defendant is directed to file his written statement within 30 days from the date of service of the summons. Endorsement be made on the summons accordingly," the court had said in its order.

Singh, who claims to be the state executive committee member of the Jharkhand BJP and an active volunteer of the RSS and VHP, moved the suit through advocate Mukesh Sharma stating that the claims in the documentary against the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are made with the intention of defaming the organisations and its volunteers.

"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 states.

The two-volume documentary series that has already been banned is nevertheless easily accessible in the public domain on Wikimedia and the Internet Archive, Singh has argued.

"Defendant No.1 (BBC), strategically and purposefully disseminated unfounded rumours without verifying the authenticity of the claims. Furthermore, the accusations made therein foster animosity between multiple faith communities, in particular Hindus and Muslims," the suit says.

Singh has also sought an order of unconditional apology by the defendants, to him, the RSS, and the VHP for the allegedly "libellous and defamatory content" that was included in the two-volume documentary series.

The suit states: "The plaintiff has worked assiduously over decades to build his career and reputation, and if this matter is left unchecked, it will permanently demolish the plaintiff's hard-earned reputation and career. Therefore, even though the plaintiff is a champion of free speech, he is compelled to seek an immediate injunction to safeguard his reputation and livelihood."

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