HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt. Ltd. has moved the Delhi High Court against a District Court order
restraining publication of a book on Asaram Bapu titled "Gunning for the Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram Bapu's Conviction".
The book was scheduled to be released on September 5 this year, however, the Patiala House District Court on Friday (September 4, 2020), passed an ex-parte
order of injunction in a civil suit filed by Sanchita Gupta to restrain the publication of the book. Suchita Gupta, who was also convicted under the POCSO Act in 2018 as an aid of Asaram Bapu in a case related to the rape of a minor girl, contented that an online platform had published a chapter of the book, which was defamatory and was likely to prejudice her pending appeal against the conviction in the Rajasthan High Court. However, the Company before the High Court has stated that the impugned order is "grossly premature" and has been issued without even considering the Book as a whole. "The Respondent No.1/Plaintiff ought to have filed a copy of the Judgment, which would have shed light on the facts that appear in the public record against her. In order to mislead the Ld. Trial Court, the Respondent No.1/Plaintiff, deliberately chose to not file the Judgement and selectively reproduced extracts from the Book
”, the HC petition reads.
The publishers, represented by Obhan & Associates, have submitted that the trial court while passing the impugned order did not consider the fundamental principles of law against pre-publication censorship which violates the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution and termed it as a “serious error”. Further on, the petitioner informed the court that the content to be published in the Book, which is alleged to be defamatory, is already in the public domain and subject to wide reporting, discussion and debate. The Publishing Company has contended that the publication of the book will not prejudice the ongoing judicial proceeding before the Rajasthan High Court while highlighting the 2018 conviction Judgment against the Respondent No.1/Plaintiff and various media reports that shows her involvement in the Asaram case. It says that "In concealing these documents and facts, the Respondent No.1/Plaintiff has misled the Ld. Trial Court into believing that she has a reputation in the society which is deserving of protection or which has been damaged by the publication of the Book,
" the plea states. The book is based on a true story of the facts surrounding the conviction of self-styled godman Asaram Bapu. It is authored by Ajay Lamba, Additional Commissioner of Police, Jaipur, and Sanjiv Mathur.