Shrinath Hebbar of Land Trades wins libel suit, Court orders defendant to pay compensation amount of Rs.1.5 crore
Mangaluru: In a judgment delivered on 29.11.2021 concerning civil suit No. O.S. No.291/2017 and 168/2021, K. Shrinath Hebbar Vs Hanumantha Kamath and Others, Dharmagiri Ramaswamy, Principal Senior Civil Judge & CJM, Mangaluru has ruled in favour of the plaintiff K. Shrinath Hebbar, proprietor of the city based Land Trades Builders and Developers and ordered the defendants Hanumantha Kamath and Tulunadu News, an online new website, to jointly pay compensation of Rs. 1.5 crore. The judge has further permanently restrained the defendants from publishing defamatory, false, scandalous, malicious and venomous articles against the plaintiff. The first defendant Hanumantha Kamath is required to pay 95 percent and the second defendant Tulunadu News is required to pay 5 percent of the compensation amount in two installments within six months.
The plaintiff K. Shrinath Hebbar had approached the court on 24.10.2017 and 2.11.2017 seeking permanent injunction and cash compensation respectively from the defendants after the first defendant Hanumantha Kamath had published a series of three articles using the media platform provided by the second defendant Tulunadu News casting aspersions on the credibility of the plaintiff K. Shrinath Hebbar and the viability of his firm’s multi-storeyed apartment project ‘Solitaire’ situated at Hat Hill in Chilimbi, Mangalore. The plaintiff had informed the court that the articles were malicious and defamatory in nature, had severely damaged his reputation, caused delay in completion of the project and adversely affected the sales of apartments. As this had caused huge loss to him, he had sought financial compensation of Rs. 2 crore from the defendants.
After examining both parties, collecting their statements and evidence, the court concluded that the defendants Hanumantha Kamath and Tulunadu News were indeed liable for both injunction and compensation. In support of his petitions, the plaintiff K. Shrinath Hebbar had submitted 35 documents including building construction license and completion certificate from Mangaluru City Corporation, clearance from Mangalore Urban Development Authority (MUDA), no objection certificate and final clearance from Director of General of Police, Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services, approval from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, relevant bank documents and the favourable judgments given by Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court of India concerning the apartment project Solitaire. These documents were given as evidence that the apartment project Solitaire was entirely legitimate and there was no cause for doubting either the plaintiff’s personal credibility or the project’s viability. It was further submitted that the defendant Hanumantha Kamath had colluded with certain disgruntled persons of the locality who had engaged in the frivolous litigation to stall the project for publishing malicious and mala fide articles to damage his credibility and cast aspersions on the viability of the project.
Observing that the plaintiff has taken bank loans and invested crores of rupees in this construction project employing nearly 250 people and that he had presented all documents to prove the legitimacy of the project, the court passed a decree in favour of the plaintiff. Advocate K. Shambu Sharma represented the plaintiff.