Zee Media challenges interrogatories raised by MS Dhoni in IPL betting scandal defamation suit

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Zee Media Corporation has filed a petition in the Madras High Court challenging the decision of a single-judge to allow the interrogatories submitted by MS Dhoni in a 2014 defamation lawsuit over the IPL betting scandal. Interrogatories are written questions submitted by one party in a lawsuit, to which the opposing side must submit written responses while under oath.

Although declining to grant any interim stay on the single-judge’s order, the bench of Justices R Mahadevan and Mohammed Shaffiq consented to hear Zee’s appeal on Monday, March 13.

The lawsuit was filed in response to news reports by Zee and defamatory comments made by IPS Sampath Kumar on the 2013 IPL betting scandal, alleging the involvement of MS Dhoni.

At the time, the High Court issued an interim injunction and prohibited Zee, Kumar, and others from disparaging the cricket player. Zee and the others then submitted their written statements in the aforesaid lawsuit. Dhoni, subsequently, initiated contempt of court proceedings against the IPS officer for his further defamatory statements as part of his written submission.

After noticing that the written statements submitted by Zee were “generalized and did not contain specific responses towards the allegation raised”, Dhoni raised a set of 17 questions as interrogatories in July last year, which were allowed by another bench.

Zee submitted an application to overturn the decision, but it was denied. While rejecting Zee’s application, the single judge in this matter pointed out that the media house had not shown justification for overturning the judgement, and that a single judge could not overturn the decision of another single judge.

The ruling, giving Dhoni permission to deliver the interrogatories, was subsequently challenged by Zee in the Madras High Court. Zee asserted that the majority of the interrogatories featured inquiries that should be raised during the trial’s cross-examination phase. Furthermore, it was claimed that the interrogatories had been given with the objective of knowing Zee’s evidence beforehand.

“The motive of the first respondent/plaintiff (Dhoni) to take interrogatories against the applicant (Zee) is that the first respondent/plaintiff wanted to know beforehand the evidence against him and tamper with the evidence,” Zee claimed, as reported by Bar and Bench.