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Aaditya to HC: The Constitution protects political speech

In response to Lok Sabha MP Rahul Ramesh Shewale’s request for interim relief in his defamation litigation, Aaditya Thackeray told the Delhi High Court that the allegedly slanderous statements he made were nothing more than constitutionally protected political speech.

Shewale’s defamation lawsuit against Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, his son Aaditya, and party Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut, among others, was listed before a single judge bench of Justice Prateek Jalan on Monday, with the court being informed that the three leaders have filed their response to Shewale’s application for interim relief.

The HC then granted Shewale one week to file a rebuttal to the responses and scheduled a hearing for May 11. In addition, the HC ordered the parties to conclude the pleadings in the primary defamation lawsuit.

Senior attorney Devadutt Kamat, appearing on behalf of Sanjay Raut, stated that Shewale’s lawsuit is inadmissible because “it is unprecedented in the history of common law for a political party to sue for defamation.” In his response, Raut described Shewale’s application as a “mala fide attempt to silence the defendants’ free speech”

Regarding Shewale’s claims that the defendants have defamed the EC, Raut stated that “a constitutional body cannot have a reputation that can be the subject of a defamation lawsuit.”

Advocate Naman Joshi represented Worli MLA Aaditya, who, in response to the interim petition, stated that his political statements are not defamatory because he and Shewale are political leaders of competing parties from the same state.

He asserted that it is common for politicians to criticise each other’s behaviour in political discourse, whether it be in their political or personal lives or as public figures. He stated that politicians such as Shewale “should accept both bouquets and brickbats.” “It is unacceptable for public figures to have a thin skin, as it would stifle all criticism of them,” he responds.

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