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Delhi HC refuses to quash summons to CM Kejriwal for retweeting Dhruv Rathee's video against BJP

By Shreya Agarwal      06 February, 2024 10:52 AM      0 Comments
Delhi HC refuses to quash summons to CM Kejriwal for retweeting Dhruv Rathees video against BJP

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has refused to quash summons issued against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a criminal defamation case for retweeting an allegedly defamatory video titled “BJP IT Cell Part II” posted by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee in 2018.

In an important decision on the offence of defamation, a single judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma held that retweeting defamatory content will attract the offence of defamation under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

‘Retweeting’ was an option provided by former social media platform ‘Twitter’ (now ‘X’) to re-share a ‘tweet’, i.e. a post, on one’s own timeline from another user’s Twitter timeline - without any edits in the same.

Subsequently, an option to ‘quote tweet’ was also introduced by the platform, wherein a tweet/post another user could be reposted by one by adding one’s own comments on the same.

Upholding the summons order passed by the Magistrate, and the Sessions Court’s decision in Kejriwal's subsequent revision plea, the bench held that some sense of responsibility must be there  while retweeting content on social media which the person does not have any knowledge about.

“Since…reputational injury is caused by defaming a person, the person doing so by retweeting must attract penal, civil or tort action against him in absence of any disclaimer,” the Court decided.

It is, however, unclear whether the Court is referring to a general disclaimer on the person’s timeline, such as stating “retweets do not amount to endorsements” or specific endorsements accompanying every retweet/ repost.

Referring to the added responsibility of pubic persons in publishing content, the Court said that while even a mere whisper, when echoed in cyber domain, magnifies to a great extent, when a public figure with a political standing tweets or retweets, defamatory post, "the repercussions escalate given the broader implications on society."

This is because for a public person with a larger following, "the audience therefore becomes a citizenry at large, whose opinion may be influenced by the information they consume including the defamatory statement published on social media,” the Court reasoned.

The complaint against Kejriwal was filed by one Vikas Sanskrityayan, founder of the social media page, “I support Narendra Modi.”

He had complained that the YouTube video was circulated by influencer Dhruv Rathee and false and defamatory allegations were made in it - which was retweeted by Kejriwal without verification.

The trial court had accepted the complainant's contention that the video was defamatory in nature and that Kejriwal's retweeting the same, had tarnished his reputation both in India and abroad.

Title: Arvind Kejriwal v. State & Anr.



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