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Tue. Oct 4th, 2022
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere with a Karnataka high court order that stayed a trial court decree mandating former prime minister HD Devegowda to pay Rs 2 crore for his defamatory remarks against Nandi Infrastructure, but said public figures must not make irresponsible statements that impact reputation and business of corporate entities.
Devegowda was saddled with the damages on a defamation suit filed by Nandi Infrastructure, which executed the Bengaluru-Mysuru Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC), a 4- to 6-lane private toll expressway. The HC had stayed execution of the decree on Devegowda’s undertaking that he would not make any derogatory remarks against Nandi during pendency of the appeal.
Appearing for Nandi infrastructure, senior advocate Neeraj K Kaul told a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli that as per the rules, the stay could have been granted on Devegowda either depositing the decretal amount in the HC or providing guarantee for the amount.
But, the bench said that it would not interfere with an interim order by which Devegowda has been restrained from making any defamatory or derogatory statement against Nandi. However, the bench said public figures must exercise restraint in speaking against corporates who make valuable investment in developmental projects.
“You (Nandi) have put up such a good project. Corporate entities make valuable investments. When a public figure makes irresponsible statements, it damages reputation and affects the share prices,” the bench said. It told Kaul that if Devegowda breached his undertaking, then Nandi could move court seeking appropriate remedies.
The HC, in its interim order, had said, “Prima facie, we do not find an iota of evidence having been placed, which has resulted in the company having suffered any loss in real terms or otherwise. In fact, no evidence has been let in to show either the dip in the valuation of the company nor is any independent evidence led to demonstrate that the standing of the plaintiff Company or its promoter or family members has fallen in the esteem of the public.”
Last year, the trial court had said the project had been upheld by the HC and the SC in many judgments. “Hence, if defamatory statements like the present one are allowed to be made in future, it will definitely hamper implementation of such a massive project like the present one which is undertaken in the larger public interest of Karnataka and is going to be delayed,” it had said.

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