The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday refused to interfere with a Bombay High Court order asking Times Now news channel to deposit Rs 20 crore cash and give a bank guarantee of Rs 80 crore in connection with a defamation suit filed by former SC judge PB Sawant.
The bench refused to grant any relief to Times Global Broadcasting Company Ltd that owns the news channel, saying there was no error in the interim order of the HC.
Justice Sawant had sued the channel for wrongly using his photograph in a news item on September 10, 2008, relating to the Ghaziabad PF scam allegedly involving some judges.
After a defamation suit was filed by Justice Sawant, a Pune court ordered the company to pay him R100 crore as damages. In September 2011, the HC asked the media group to deposit the amount before its appeal against the trial court order was taken up.
Times Global, however, maintained that it had already apologised to Justice Sawant in its news scroll for five days in 2008 and was therefore not liable to pay damages. Soon after, the broadcaster moved SC seeking a stay on the HC order.
On Monday, the Editors Guild of India said: "If inadvertent errors were to be met with punitive fines, it would make it difficult…for journalists and media organisations to carry out their professional duties."
Former CJI and head of News Broadcasting Standards Authority Justice JS Verma said, "I wish Justice Sawant had ignored this lapse…with the high reputation for integrity enjoyed by him, no one would have believed any such aspersion against him."