Infosys defamation suit: Why media should fight for its quick disposal

Thanks to the slow speed at which courts in India operate, defamation suits could be, and are, used to bully and harass smaller media products.

Anant Rangaswami June 10, 2014 16:38:41 IST
Infosys defamation suit: Why media should fight for its quick disposal

Infosys served The Economic Times, The Times of India and The Financial Express with defamation notices yesterday

“ ...Infosys claimed damages of Rs 2,000 crore for loss and reputation and goodwill due to circulation of defamatory articles,” says The Hindu. "The three newspapers — The Economic Times, The Times of India and The Financial Express — have been given 24 hours to remove such articles from their websites and other media, and issue an unconditional apology," The Hindu article went on to add.

Infosys defamation suit Why media should fight for its quick disposal

Representational image. Reuters

Within minutes of the news breaking, social media churned out opinions on Infosys’ move. Some thought Infosys was ill-advised, others thought that Infosys was acting like a bully, some went on to complain about how Infosys couldn’t handle criticism. By and large, the suggestion was that Infosys should shut up and get on with it.

Not a single comment on the allegedly offending articles in the three papers and what the articles contained.

By the end of today, we will know whether or not the publications in question have complied with the conditions of the notice; in a few days we will know the Infosys reaction.

It’s a battle that’s almost been dubbed ‘The free press Versus Infosys.’

This is not about a free press. This issue is about alleged defamation. A free press does not give the media the license to say anything at all about any issue, any company or any individual. A free press does not allow a media product to defame anyone.

That’s what the legal battle will be about.

Much as defamation suits protect those who are defamed, they are also protectors and builders of the reputations of news products. The pronouncement of a judgment on a defamation suit, if it goes in favour of the news product concerned, immediately increases the credibility and reputation of the product — and diminishes the reputation and the credibility of the litigant.

In a way, defamation laws serve to operate as a quality check on news products, forcing journalists and editors to go through due process to ensure that there is nothing defamatory in any of the content that they produce.

That's why we need more defamation suits to be filed, argued in the courts and decided by the courts and stop accusing every single defamation suit as a bullying tactic. Sadly, thanks to the slow speed at which courts in India operate, defamation suits could be, and are, used to bully and harass smaller media products.

That’s what news media products should be fighting for — quick disposal of all defamation suits, not the absence of the suits themselves.

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