Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani Recuses from ₹10,000 Crore Defamation Case Against BBC

Mainstream
21-May-2024
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In a significant development, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court has recused himself from hearing a ₹10,000 crore defamation case filed against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for its two-part documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The case, titled *Justice on Trial v. British Broadcasting Corporation & Anr*, was listed before Justice Bhambhani on Friday, May 17.

Upon the case being called, Justice Bhambhani announced that the matter would be reassigned to another judge, pending the orders of the judge in charge of the Original Side of the Delhi High Court.

The defamation suit was brought forward by Justice on Trial, a Gujarat-based non-profit organization. The NGO contends that the BBC's documentary, *India: The Modi Question*, defamed India, its judiciary, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As part of its legal action, Justice on Trial has sought the court's permission to file the defamation suit as an indigent person, claiming damages of ₹10,000 crore from the BBC.

The filing of the defamation suit as an indigent person is governed by Order XXXIII of the Code of Civil Procedure, which allows individuals who cannot afford the legal fees to initiate lawsuits. According to this provision, a person can file a suit as an indigent individual if they lack the financial means to pay the required court fees.

Justice on Trial had previously received notices regarding their Indigent Person Application (IPA) on May 22, 2023. The NGO argues that it lacks sufficient funds to pay the statutory fee associated with filing the defamation suit, hence seeking the court's permission to proceed without the financial burden.

The BBC's documentary, which has stirred controversy, reportedly casts aspersions on the reputation of India and its institutions. The non-profit claims that the documentary damages the nation's image and undermines public trust in the judiciary and leadership.

As the case now awaits reassignment, it continues to draw attention given the substantial claim and the involvement of high-profile entities. The reassignment will enable the proceedings to move forward under the purview of another judge from the Delhi High Court.

This development underscores the complexity and sensitivity of defamation cases, particularly those involving media organizations and political figures, and highlights the procedural nuances of the Indian judicial system in handling suits filed by indigent persons.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News write, MIT ADT University