In response to our post Why is MSM silent over involvement of Shishir Gupta of Hindustan Times with arms dealer Bhandari?, we received an email from Mr. Rajat Bali on behalf of Shishir Gupta, which we are reproducing in full below:
The intent of the post was a question to the Mainstream Media (MSM) as to why they were not covering the third most frequent caller in the CDR. It was not intended to malign anyone. In the legal notice itself (Point 19), Mr. Gupta says he had tele conversations with Mr. Bhandari. We believe telling the truth is not defamation.
Contents of Email received from Mr. Rajat Bali –
03 June 2016
Twitter handle @pgurus1
firstname.lastname@example.org … Noticee No. 1
Twitter handle @pgurus1
email@example.com … Noticee No. 2
https://www.pgurus.com … Noticee No. 3
Sub: Notice on behalf of Mr. Shishir Gupta, Executive Editor, Hindustan Times
1. I address you, the Noticees, under instructions of and on behalf of Mr. Shishir Gupta, aged about 52 years, s/o Mr. J.P. Gupta, r/o A2/714, Ekta Gardens, 9 Patparganj, Delhi – 1992 (hereinafter referred to as “my Client”), who has instructed me to address you as under:
2. My Client is a renowned print journalist for the last about 25 years, with an impeccable record and a reputation for integrity and fair reporting. He has specialized in, and written extensively on, defence related issues, and his areas of focus as a journalist have been defence and strategy.
3. Since April 2015, my Client has been holding the position of Executive Editor with the Hindustan Times.
4. My Client belongs to a respectable and distinguished family. His father, Mr. J.P Gupta, is a retired Government servant, having served in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, andretired in 1994. His late mother, (Dr.) Mridula Gupta retired as Senior Editor, Hindi Readers Digest in 2003 and was a distinguished poetess. His wife, Dr. Shailaja Gupta is a senior government official.
5. My Client joined the Indian Express as Trainee Reporter in October 1991. Having reached the position of Special Reporter, Investigation Team in July 1996, my Client left the Indian Express to join Hindustan Times as Head of Investigative Bureau and Defence Correspondent. During his tenure as Head of Investigative Bureau and Defence Correspondent, my Client covered various insurgencies in Kashmir and in the North-East region, the Kargil War, and also the Indian Airlines hijacking at Kandahar.
6. In 1998, my Client was awarded the prestigious Wolfson Chevening Press Fellowship for study at Cambridge University, UK.
7. In April 2001, my Client joined India Today as Senior Assistant Editor, covering strategic affairs, defence issues, enforcement agencies, and national politics.
8. In January 2003, my Client joined the Indian Express as National Chief of Bureau. In 2006, on an invitation from the US State Department, my Client pursued a course in investigative journalism. Later on in 2006, our Client was promoted to Editor, Express News Service.
9. In 2011, while holding the post of Editor, Express News Service, my Client authored a book, Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within, published by Hachette India. This is the first book dealing with the issue of home-grown jihad in India, and has been a bestseller since it was published.
10. In August 2011, my Client joined the Hindustan Times as Deputy Executive Editor. In the same year, he was awarded the Ben Gurion award for journalism by the Government of Israel.
11. He is also the author of an acclaimed book, The Himalayan Face-off : Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte, published by Hachette India in March 2014.
12. He was recently appointed Member of the Executive Council of Indian Institute of Mass Communication in April 2016.
13. On 02 June 2016, an article was published by the Noticee No. 3 website and was brought to the notice of my Client, which article was titled “Why is MSM silent over involvement of Shishir Gupta of Hindustan Times with arms dealer Bhandari?” (hereinafter referred to as “the article”)
14. The article referred to raids conducted by Income Tax authorities on a gentleman by the name of Mr. Sanjay Bhandari. It was deliberately and falsely alleged in the article that my Client had been in touch with Mr. Bhandari regularly, based on purported Call Detail Records (“CDR”) of Mr. Bhandari. It was further alleged, based on the purported CDR, that my Client had called Mr. Bhandari 478 times over a short span of time. It was further suggested maliciously that my Client was proximate to leaders of various political parties. As regards my Client holding the position of Member of the Executive Council of IIMC it was stated “The Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently appointed Shishir Gupta as Member of Executive Council of the prestigious government run journalism institute called IIMC – Indian Institute of Mass Communication! To say that it raises eyebrows is an understatement – this Executive Council decides academics and administration and one fears for the future of journalism.”
15. Further, personal details, including the mobile number and e-mail ID of my Client, have been published in the article, which constitutes an offence under Section 72 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
16. The article asserted that these alleged CDRs were “widely circulated to journalists by the investigators and these kind of leaks are not un-common” without verifying the source or authenticity of the CDRs.
17. I am instructed to state that the CDRs lack veracity. The CDRs are a false and fabricated document, engineered to defame my Client and to malign his impeccable reputation, thereby attracting the provisions of Sections 469 / 471 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
18. The dishonest and malicious intent of you the Noticees becomes apparent from the fact that you consciously did not even contact my Client to ascertain the correct factual position.
19. Prior to the end of 2015, my Client neither met nor knew Mr. Bhandari who he first came across at a social function recently in late 2015. On being informed that Mr. Bhandari was working in the defence sector, my Client exchanged numbers and since then there were some infrequent calls.
20. The fact is that in my Client’s professional capacity, him being a journalist specializing in defence and strategy issues for the last 25 years, he routinely comes across and is in contact with private persons who are in the defence sector, who are potential sources of information for my Client’s work as a journalist, and to enable him to remain abreast of developments in the defence sector. Needless to say, in his work as a journalist, his contact with such private persons who are or may become sources, does not in any way impact his professional integrity.
21. This is demonstrated by the fact that after my Client had been appointed the Executive Editor, Hindustan Times was the first mainstream national daily newspaper to publish, on 01 May 2016, a story on the Income Tax raids conducted on Mr. Bhandari.
22. Yet, for your ulterior motives and with dishonest intention, you the Noticee Nos. 1 and 2 created / procured a false and fabricated document, purporting to be CDR of Mr. Bhandari, and have published personal details of my Client on your website. These constitute serious cognizable offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Information Technology Act, 2000.
23. You the Noticees, with malafide intention to harm the reputation of my Client, have been making imputations against my Client with malicious intention and knowledge that the said imputations would injure and lower the reputation of my Client in the estimation of others, given the fact that my Client has been a journalist of repute for the last 25 years, and is widely known as a man of integrity and fair reporting. You the Noticee Nos. 1 and 2 have authored, edited, and published the defamatory article with criminal knowledge and intention, and therefore have joined in the defaming of my Client as if the defaming was done by either of you the Noticees alone. The Noticees have intentionally cooperated to commit several acts culminating in damaging the reputation of my Client. In these terms, you the Noticees have defamed my Client by making the imputations and circulating them before the members of the public at large.
24. You the Noticees are well aware of the impeccable reputation of my Client, and are aware that my Client is been an honest, diligent journalist for the last 25 years. You the Noticees have deliberately published disparaging imputations against my Client with an intent to unfairly prejudice the opinion of the public at large by questioning his integrity and credibility.
25. The language and tenor used by you the Noticee Nos. 1 and 2 in the article makes it clear that the same was aimed at defaming my Client and has had the effect of defaming my Client.
26. I am instructed to state that you the Noticees, intending to harm or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputations will harm the reputation of my Client, have published the article against my Client which has lowered the moral and intellectual character of my Client in the eyes of his colleagues, associates, Government authorities, and well-wishers as well as the public at large, causing immense and irreparable loss to the reputation of my Client.
27. The imputations regarding the character of my Client by you the Noticees are baseless, vexatious, false and have no truth in them. In sum and substance, the libelous article authored by you the Noticee No. 2, edited by you the Noticee No. 1, and published on the Noticee No. 3 website is defamatory, as it makes imputations against my Client, with the knowledge that such imputation will harm the reputation of my Client. This has exposed my Client to public embarrassment and adverse public perception. The image, reputation and respect commanded by my Client has been lowered in the eyes of people, who have always held him in high esteem.
28. Immediately after the publication and dissemination of the above stated article, my Client has received various anxious and inquisitive calls from his colleagues, associates, Government authorities, friends and well-wishers expressing their concern at the publication of the article.
29. By this notice, I call upon you the Noticees to tender and publish an unconditional apology on the Noticee No. 3 website of which you the Noticee No. 1 is the Editor, and on any other social media platform which might contain a link or any reference to the article, and to withdraw the false allegations against my Client within three days of receipt of the present Legal Notice.
30. In case you the Noticees fail to comply with the present Notice, my Client shall be constrained to initiate appropriate civil / criminal proceedings against you the Noticees for the commission of offences under various statutes, and you the Noticees shall also be liable to pay damages and bear the cost of the said suit / proceedings entirely at your own risk and consequence.
A copy of this Notice has been retained in my Office for further necessary action.