Apex Court Sets Out Broad Parameters To Be Kept In Mind While Hearing The Application For An Interim Injunction

Posted On - 29 April, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


[1]A Three-Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court (“Hon’ble SC”) comprising of Hon’ble Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra(“Hon’ble Bench”), laid down directions for the trial courts to be considered while granting pre-trial injunctions against the publication of media articles and journalistic pieces in defamation suits. The Hon’ble Bench made significant observations with regard to the broad parameters to be kept in mind while hearing the application for an interim injunction, while setting aside an interim injunction order which directed Bloomberg to take down an article published against Zee Enterprises Ltd.


An ex-parte ad interim order 01st March 2024 (“Ex-Parte Ad-Interim Injunction”), was passed by the ADJ 05 of the South Saket Courts, New Delhi (“Trial Judge”) directing the Appellants (a media platform, one of its editors, and the concerned journalists) to take down an article dated 21 February 2024 published on their online platform within a period of one week. The appellants were also restrained from posting, circulating or publishing the article in respect of the respondent-plaintiff on any online or offline platform till the next date of hearing.

The order of the trial Judge has been upheld by a Single Judge of the High Court of Delhi (“Hon’ble HC”) by the Impugned Order dated 14 March 2024 (“Impugned Order”).


Whether the Ex-Parte Ad-Interim Order of the Trial Judge having not recorded the reasons in detail for having granted the said Order is liable to be set aside?


The Hon’ble Bench observed that the three-fold test of (i) a prima facie case, (ii) balance of convenience and (iii) irreparable loss or harm, for the grant of interim relief, is well-established in the jurisprudence of this Court. It was also observed that this test is equally applicable to the grant of interim injunctions in defamation suits. However, the Hon’ble Bench cautioned that this three-fold test must not be applied mechanically.

The Hon’ble Bench further observed that there are also additional factors, that must be weighed with courts while granting an ex-parte ad interim injunction which were elucidated by a three-judge bench of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Morgan Stanley Mutual Fund v. Kartick Das (1994) 4 SCC 225.

With regards to suits concerning defamation by media platforms and/or journalists, the Hon’ble Bench observed that an additional consideration of balancing the fundamental right to free speech with the right to reputation and privacy must be borne in mind while granting pre-trial interim injunctions. The Hon’ble Bench considered the ‘Bonnard standard’ laid down by the Court of Appeal (England and Wales) in Bonnard v. Perryman (1891) 95 All ER 965, which christened the following test:

“…But it is obvious that the subject-matter of an action for defamation is so special as to require exceptional caution in exercising the jurisdiction to interfere by injunction before the trial of an action to prevent an anticipated wrong. The right of free speech is one which it is for the public interest that individuals should possess, and, indeed, that they should exercise without impediment, so long as no wrongful act is done; and, unless an alleged libel is untrue, there is no wrong committed; but, on the contrary, often a very wholesome act is performed in the publication and repetition of an alleged libel. Until it is clear that an alleged libel is untrue, it is not clear that any right at all has been infringed; and the importance of leaving free speech unfettered is a strong reason in cases of libel for dealing most cautiously and warily with the granting of interim injunctions.”

The Hon’ble Bench held that while granting interim relief, the court must provide detailed reasons and analyze how the three-fold test is satisfied. A cursory reproduction of the submissions and precedents before the court is not sufficient. The court must explain how the test is satisfied and how the precedents cited apply to the facts of the case.

The Hon’ble Bench, while noting that the grant of a pre-trial injunction against the publication of an article may have severe ramifications on the right to freedom of speech of the author and the public’s right to know, held that an injunction, particularly ex-parte, should not be granted without establishing that the content sought to be restricted is ‘malicious’ or ‘palpably false’. In other words, courts should not grant ex-parte injunctions except in exceptional cases where the defence advanced by the respondent would undoubtedly fail at trial. In all other cases, injunctions against the publication of material should be granted only after a full-fledged trial is conducted or in exceptional cases, after the respondent is given a chance to make their submissions.

The Hon’ble Bench also shed light on the concept of ‘SLAPP Suits’, where the term ‘SLAPP’ stands for ‘Strategic Litigation against Public Participation’ and is an umbrella term used to refer to litigation predominantly initiated by entities that wield immense economic power against members of the media or civil society, to prevent the public from knowing about or participating in important affairs in the public interest. In light of the same, the Bench opined that while granting ad-interim injunctions in defamation suits, the potential of using prolonged litigation to prevent free speech and public participation must also be kept in mind by courts.

With regards to the grant of an interim injunction in the exercise of discretionary power of the Appellate Court, the Hon’ble Bench observed that the Appellate Court will usually not interfere with the grant of interim relief, however, the Hon’ble Bench reiterated in line of its own precedents, that the Appellate Courts must interfere with the grant of interim relief if the discretion has been exercised “arbitrarily, capriciously, perversely, or where the court has ignored settled principles of law regulating the grant or refusal of interlocutory injunctions.”

Therefore, the Hon’ble Bench held that the grant of an Ex Parte Ad-Interim Injunction by way of an unreasoned order, merely recording that the Three-fold Test is cleared, would not amount to an application of mind to the facts of the case, and necessitated interference by the Hon’ble HC. Further, the Hon’ble Bench opined that this being a case of an injunction granted in defamation proceedings against a media platform, the impact of the injunction on the constitutionally protected right of free speech further warranted intervention. Recording the above directions and principles, the Hon’ble Bench set aside both the orders of the trial Judge and of the Single Judge of the Hon’ble HC.


The Judgment underscores critical nuances involved in granting interim reliefs in defamation suits, particularly concerning media platforms and journalists. The Judgment highlights key considerations such as the three-fold test for granting interim relief, the importance of detailed reasoning in judicial decisions, and the need to balance free speech with the right to reputation and privacy. The Apex Court also emphasized the need for judicial scrutiny of the interim injunctions by the appellate courts, especially when such injunction has been granted vide a non-speaking order or by mechanical application of the three-fold test without assessing the merits of each case before granting injunctions.


Bloomberg Television Production Services India Pvt Ltd and others v. Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd : https://webapi.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2024/12343/12343_2024_1_19_51717_Judgement_22-Mar-2024.pdf

Civil Appeal No 4602 of 2024

Judgment dated 22nd March 2024