A case filed against The Caravan by Arindam Chaudhuri’s Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) and one Kishorendu Gupta was yesterday shifted from the trial court at Silchar, Assam, to the Delhi High Court. While delivering the order on the matter, which has been pending in the Supreme Court for four years, Justice Madan B Lokur, who was hearing the case, along with Justice RK Agarwal, described IIPM’s suit as “bogus litigation.”
In February 2011, The Caravan published a cover story on Arindam Chaudhuri, the director of the IIPM. The piece, by Siddhartha Deb, one of the magazine’s contributing editors, was acclaimed for its nuanced portrayal of a controversial figure, and for its insight into the educational aspirations of thousands of young people who enrolled at the IIPM.
Soon after publication, the IIPM filed a Rs 50-crore lawsuit against The Caravan, citing “grave harassment and injury.” In addition to The Caravan and its proprietors, the suit charges Siddhartha Deb, Penguin (the publisher of Deb’s book The Beautiful and The Damned, in which the article was a chapter), and Google India (which, the suit alleges, has been “publishing, distributing, giving coverage, circulating, blogging the defamatory, libelous and slanderous articles”).
The suit was filed, not in Delhi, where both the IIPM and the magazine’s publisher, Delhi Press, are based, but 2,200 kilometres away in Silchar, Assam, 300 kilometres from Dispur, Assam’s capital. The IIPM filed the case at the Court of Civil Judge in Silchar district, through one Kishorendu Gupta, who operated Gupta Electrical Engineers in a Silchar suburb, and was the first plaintiff. Gupta was a commissioned agent who worked for the IIPM on a contractual basis. Although he was called a counselor, a contract between Gupta and IIPM showed that he was a recruitment agent who was paid for his service on a commission basis. IIPM’s contract with Gupta stated (from the agreement submitted by the plaintiffs in the court):
“for number of students enrolled between 1 to 24, the compensation would be Rs 75,000 per student …[and] for anyone who crosses the 25 students mark, the compensation would be Rs 90,000 per student…[and] for anyone who crosses the 50 student mark, the compensation would be Rs 1,25,000 per student”