Indian court orders website to take down two articles on lawmaker

A city civil court in the southern Indian city of Bangalore on March 2, 2017, ordered the news website The Wire to take down two articles critical of Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a member of India’s upper house of parliament, according to one of the website’s founding editor and news reports.

The first piece, written by journalist Sandeep Bhushan on January 25, 2017, analyzed Chandrasekhar’s investment in Republic TV, an upcoming English-language news channel, according to a report on the website The second article, dated February 17, 2017, was an opinion piece arguing that Chandrasekhar’s investment in defense companies while serving as a member of a parliamentary committee on defense constituted a conflict of interest.

The court issued the order without giving The Wire an opportunity to defend itself, Siddharth Varadarajan, one of the founding editors of The Wire, told CPJ. The website learned of the court order only the following day, when Chandrasekhar’s lawyer, M S Shyamsundar, sent them a copy.

“The notice came with two lengthy documents running into several hundred pages of tedious, frivolous legalese that comprise his ‘original suits’ for defamation–in which he claims Rs 10 crore [roughly US $ 1.5 million] in damages for each of the two articles,” Varadarajan told CPJ.

The Wire will fight Chandrasekhar’s suit and the ex parte injunction [ordering the removal of the articles] in the appropriate legal forum. It is our view that his suits are an attempt to muzzle the media and pose a grave danger to freedom of the press in India,” Varadarajan said.

A statement emailed to CPJ from Chandrasekhar’s office said the lawmaker was exercising his right to defend himself against “political slander and dishonesty. Those rights are his and he intends to fully exercise them–even it if does get misconstrued deliberately or accidently.”