Tarun Tejpal, Tehelka Asked To Pay ₹ 2 Crore To Army Officer In Defamation Case

Tarun Tejpal, Tehelka Asked To Pay ₹ 2 Crore To Army Officer In Defamation Case
Tarun Tejpal, Tehelka Asked To Pay ₹ 2 Crore To Army Officer In Defamation Case

In a Tarun Tejpal case involving an Indian Army officer involved in defence procurement and alleged corruption, the Delhi High Court has awarded the officer 2 crores for the loss of his reputation.

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The amount must be paid by Tehelka.Com, its owner M/s Buffalo Communications, its proprietor Tarun Tejpal, and two reporters, Aniruddha Bahal and Mathew Samuel, as directed by Justice Neena Bansal Krishna on Friday.

An apology after 23 years of publication is “not only inadequate but meaningless” in this blatant case of causing serious damage to the reputation of an honest Army officer, the judge noted.

As a result of the agreement between Zee Telefilm Ltd and the news portal, the plaintiff was not able to prove defamation on the part of Zee Telefilm Ltd or its officials.

He was not only maligned in the eyes of the public, but was also maligned with serious allegations of corruption that could not be redressed or healed by subsequent refutations.

Despite being considered a great vindication against slander, truth lacks the potency to restore one’s reputation in a society that is always quick to judge, as Abraham Lincoln wisely said. The disconsolate reality is that wealth lost can always be earned back; nevertheless, the scar to one’s reputation once etched in one’s soul yields nothing but forlorn even if millions of dollars are granted in reparation,” the court said.

In light of the findings on issue Nos.1 and 2, the suit is dismissed against defendants. The court found that the plaintiff has been entitled to damages of 2 crore rupees (Rupees two crore) for defamation caused by defendants 1 to 4, along with the costs of the suit.

In March 2001, the news portal ran a story alleging corruption in defence deals relating to imports of new equipment.

According to the plaintiff, represented by lawyer Chetan Anand, the story “Operation West End” inaccurately reported that he had accepted bribes.

As a result of the 48-page verdict, the court rejected the defendants’ arguments that “truth”, “public good” and “good faith” were valid defences, and said a “false imputation that he demanded and then accepted a $50,000 bribe” could not constitute the worst kind of defamation.

Consequently, the plaintiff was subjected to a Court of Inquiry, and although no misconduct was proven against him, “serious displeasure” was issued against him.

Based on the knowledge of defendants No. 1 to 4, the comments added by defendant no. 3 (Bahal) are false and defamatory. There cannot be any more blatant case of causing serious harm and injury to the reputation of an honest army officer, who, despite the defendant’s best efforts, refused to accept any bribes,” the court ruled.

According to the court, the evidence on record, and the admissions made by defendants Nos. 1 to 4, establish a case of defamation against the plaintiff, which entitles him to damages.

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