The Delhi High Court on Monday held that retweeting or reposting defamatory content amounts to defamation.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma, on a single-judge bench, delivered the judgment, declining to halt the criminal defamation case against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The case pertains to his sharing of a 2018 video created by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee.
The court held that interactions on social media platform X and sharing posts with others by retweeting them attracts the liability for defamation. It said that retweeting must attract penal and civil action.
“When a public figure, particularly one with a political standing, tweets or retweets a defamatory post, the stakes and repercussions escalate given the broader implications on society,” the High Court said. “The audience, therefore, becomes the citizenry at large, whose opinions and decisions may be influenced by the information they consume, including defamatory statements published on social media.”
The court held that a person retweeting or reposting defamatory content should add a disclaimer in their post whether they are agreeing, disagreeing or have verified the content.
The case was filed in 2018 by a Hindu nationalist Vikas Pandey, who accused Delhi CM of sharing the video that contained allegedly false and defamatory content against Pandey. Pandey claims to be a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is the founder of a social media page “I Support Narendra Modi”.
The saffron activist argued that the Aam Aadmi Party chief is followed by crores of people and by retweeting the video, he had shared it with a larger audience.
In 2019, Kejriwal was issued summons by the additional chief metropolitan magistrate in the case. He had challenged the summons in the sessions court, which refused to quash the order.
Delhi CM had then moved the High Court challenging the orders of the lower courts. He also sought that the criminal defamation case against him be quashed.