HC bans publication of letter alleging plagiarism by historian Vikram Sampath


Mr Sampath sought ₹2 crore in damages for loss of reputation following a ‘motivated smear campaign’

Mr Sampath sought ₹2 crore in damages for loss of reputation following a ‘motivated smear campaign’

The Delhi High Court on Friday banned the publication of any defamatory material, including a letter written by academicians Audrey Truschke, Ananya Chakrabarti and Rohit Chopra to the Royal Historical Society in London alleging plagiarism by historian Vikram Sampath in relation to his work on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Judge Amit Bansal subpoenaed Ms. Truschke, Ms. Chakrabarti, Mr. Chopra, freelance journalist Abhishek Baxi and academician Ashok Swain who have been named as defendants in the defamation suit brought by Mr. Sampath.

“The continued publication of the letter has caused considerable damage to the complainant’s reputation and career. The balance of convenience is also in his favor and irreparable damage will be caused if the injunction is not granted,” the High Court said.

Mr Sampath, author of a two-volume biography of Savarkar and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London, sought ₹2 crore as damages for loss of reputation.

On February 11, 2022, a letter was sent by Ms. Truschke, Ms. Chakrabarti and Mr. Chopra to the Royal Historical Society in which serious allegations of plagiarism were made against Mr. Sampath, in relation to his two-volume biography of Savarkar.

Mr. Sampath said Mr. Baxi and Mr. Swain took to the microblogging site Twitter to post defamatory tweets against him on February 13, which directly damaged his professional reputation. He claimed the letter was quoted by various “unscrupulous elements” on Twitter and was part of a “motivated smear campaign”.

Mr Sampath’s attorney called the plagiarism allegations unsubstantiated because the article contained quotes, attributions and footnotes.

Mr Sampath alleged that the letter was part of an “international smear campaign” to discredit him “because he showed academic courage and common sense to challenge the dominant narrative around a historical figure like VD Savarkar”.

Mr. Sampath further stated that he had been confronted with malicious and defamatory statements over the past five months.

“There is a systematic pattern of slander for learned and ideological reasons. Why this instance is the last straw on the camel’s back is that it does irrevocable harm to the plaintiff (Mr. Sampath), especially in academic circles where plagiarism is considered very seriously,” his plea stated. .

“It would forever close all doors to academic careers, possibly nullify his scholarship to the Royal Historical Society and also force many publishers to withdraw his books and cancel future contracts. Indeed, if this letter is allowed to pass freely, it will permanently destroy the plaintiff’s career and reputation carefully built over 15 years,” he added.

Twitter’s attorney said the platform would remove specific tweets related to the letter if the court ordered it. The High Court will now hear the case on April 1.


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