The Bombay High Court recently held that a web portal, used by the members of a housing society to malign and abuse each other, was equally guilty of defamation as it did not stop the use of offensive words used by one group of members to criticise the opposite group. The court issued injunction order on use of the portal by all members of the society in
the city, and also asked the owner of the web portal to file response through affidavits, failing which the HC would pass adverse orders.
A single judge bench of Justice A K Menon on Monday passed an interim order while hearing two interim applications in a suit seeking temporary order of injunction to restrain the other faction from defaming the plaintiff society and its managing committee, its auditors or any other person directly or indirectly associated with the housing society.
The court was informed by the society and its 12 managing committee members that the defendants who constituted members of society, a non-profit company formed to manage the society affairs, and a web portal indulged in defaming the plaintiffs.
Senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani for the plaintiffs submitted that the defendants had published defamatory and libellous statements against the plaintiffs on electronic media and by using public notices and letters. He sought an injunction against the defendants and web portal from publishing such statements.
Advocates Mohit Bharadwaj and Deven Jogdeo for the defendants submitted that the present suit was not maintainable as the court had earlier stayed the suit filed by the society with similar averments. Bharadwaj further said that the society and its members had also used defamatory language against the defendants. The web portal was not represented by a lawyer.
After hearing submissions, the bench observed, “Prima facie, it is evident that the offensive communications referred not only to the plaintiff society and the managing committee generally but to specific members of the managing committee.
These are not words that are used innocently. The defendant has facilitated carriage of messages on its web portal and is responsible for its publication.”
The court passed an injunction against the defendants restraining them from defaming the plaintiff society and its managing committee members. The court also restrained the web portal from publishing any defamatory material against the society.