New Delhi, November 28: Delhi High Court on Tuesday imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on BharatPe's former MD Ashneer Grover in response to alleged defamatory social media posts against the fintech company. Justice Rekha Palli expressed dismay at the persistent and blatant violation of earlier orders and assurances made by Grover. The judge, appalled by this behaviour, decided to close the matter, binding Grover to his undertaking but imposed a cost of Rs 2 lakh. The court directed the payment to the high court's clerks' association.
The court took on record Grover's apology and undertaking but proceeded to levy the fine, saying that it cannot be taken for granted. Senior advocate Akhil Sibal for plaintiff -- owner of BharatPe, Resilient Innovations Pvt Ltd -- pointed out Grover's continued violation of court orders and urged the court to issue an injunction restraining him from posting defamatory content. In response, Grover's counsel mentioned his client's apology and undertaking to refrain from offensive posts in the future, suggesting the matter be disposed of. Delhi High Court Imposes Rs Two Lakh Fine on Ashneer Grover for Violating Court Order by Posting Against Bharat Pe
The counsel also proposed mediation to resolve the dispute. Earlier, the court had directed Ashneer Grover and the officials of the fintech company not to speak in a "unparliamentary" or "defamatory" manner against one another. After Delhi Police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW) filed an FIR against Grover and members of his family, BharatPe had filed an application alleging that Grover had been tweeting defamatory statements ever since. BharatPe filed the application in its already pending defamation suit related to Grover's earlier tweets.
"This is not a street fight between some rival gangs in the corner of the city. These are corporate people, educated people, articulate people who can surely adjudicate their grievances against each other in a more refined way," Justice Prateek Jalan had said. "If you have both decided to enter the gutter, then please remain there." Appearing for the fintech company, senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Dayan Krishnan had referred to some of Grover's tweets which alleged that the firm has spent several crores on "lawyers and fixers". ‘Kya Chal Raha Hai India Mein?’: BharatPe Co-Founder Ashneer Grover After Being Stopped at Delhi Airport Following EoW Look Out Circular
Grover can dispute the BharatPe complaint against him and the Delhi Police's FIR in court if he has issues with the company's complaint, the counsel had argued. Highlighting some of the tweets by BharatPe officials, advocate Giriraj Subramanium, appearing for Grover, had said that BharatPe officials have used similar language against his client on social media and levelled allegations against Grover in the Press. The bench then said that such statements should not be made by two sides.
"Issue notice, Mr Subramanium learned counsel for all respondents accepts notice. Reply be filed by May 20, rejoinder by May 22. List before the roster bench on May 24. While keeping the application pending for adjudication on contest, the learned counsel on all sides have requested to advise their clients to avoid recourse to unparliamentary and defamatory publication against each other," the court ordered as Subramanium said that he will advise Grover to use more decorous language.
BharatPe had approached the High Court months after Grover and his wife were dismissed from the company over allegations of misappropriation of funds. In its suit, running into 2,800 pages, BharatPe has claimed damages worth Rs 88.67 crore from Grover, his wife, and his brother for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds. The damages sought include a claim for payment made against the invoices of non-existent vendors amounting to Rs 71.7 crore, a claim for Rs 1.66 crore penalty paid to GST authorities, payments totalling Rs 7.6 crore made to vendors purportedly providing recruitment services, payments of Rs 1.85 crore made to a furnishings company, payments for personal expenditures up to Rs 59.7 lakh and payment of Rs 5 crore damages for loss of reputation to the company caused by tweets and other statements made by them.
In its suit, the fintech company claimed that a Rajasthan-based travel company had raised invoices for foreign tours twice, once for Grover and his wife and second time, for their children. The family also used the company's funds to travel abroad. The suit further claimed that the Grovers used the company funds to pay the rent and security deposit of their posh duplex and for home appliances, too. The duplex was first taken over by Grovers as the company's guest house but eventually they started living there, the suit claimed.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 28, 2023 05:51 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).