Asianet & Suvarna News held liable for defaming Divya Spandana, ordered to pay Rs 50 lakhs as damages

A Bengaluru Civil Court found two TV channels – Asianet and Suvarna News, liable for defaming actor-turned-politician Divya Spandana by wrongfully linking her to 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing scandal.

The court directed the channels to pay Rs 50 lakh in damages, according to LiveLaw.in. The Court further allowed Spandana’s request for a permanent prohibitory injunction restraining the news networks from telecasting programs linking her to the spot-fixing incident.

The suit revolved around two programs aired by Suvavrna News – owned by Asianet, during May 2013 on the alleged involvement of a few Kannada movie female actor in the infamous case of spot-fixing. In the program, stills of Divya Spandana – an ex-brand ambassador of Royal Challengers Bangalore team were shown.

The actor-turned-politician contended that she was not associated with the cricketing league at that time, as she was actively involved in the campaign for Karnataka assembly elections.

The Court said, “the test to be applied for determining the question whether a statement is defamatory is to be found from the answer to the question ‘would the words tend to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society?”. If the answer is yes, then it has to be held that the statement is defamatory.”

The court held that the telecast of Suvarna News linking Divya Spandana to match-fixing would lead to lowering her reputation in the minds of right-thinking members of society. It also held that once a plaintiff proves that publications and imputations are defamatory, the burden then shifts on the defendant to justify the publication, as said in the report by LiveLaw.

“..there are no records produced on behalf of the defendant to show plaintiff being a brand ambassador of Royal Challengers Bangalore Team was involved in betting and spot-fixing scandal as transmitted in the questioned program by the defendants. Hence, this Court is of the opinion that act of defendants is in complete violation of the journalistic ethics and deliberately to destroy the popularity of the plaintiff and act of the defendant is mala fide with an intention to defame her dignity”, the Court observed.

“It is settled principle of law that reputation is the most valuable asset of a person. It is much more valuable than any amount of money. When the above said questioned program/still images do have the tendency to destroy such reputation, the injury complained of by the plaintiff would be irreparable”, it further said.

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