Aneel Mussarat v Worldview Media [2022] EWHC 1604 (QB)

04.07.2022

On 22 July 2020 the Defendant’s “Republic Bharat” Channel broadcast a programme within the UK (produced in India) in which Mr Aneel Mussarat (along with others) was accused of being a covert agent of the Pakistan Intelligence Services who was engaged in anti-India activities including assisting in terrorism against India and who was using his links with Bollywood as cover for such anti-India activities.

Mr Mussarat is a British citizen of Pakistani heritage. He was born in the UK and has lived and worked here all of his life. He is the founder and CEO of MCR Property Group and also the founder of the Rafay Mussarat foundation which carries out charitable works in the UK, Pakistan & Bangladesh. The allegations were entirely false and were made without any proper basis being given.

Mr Mussarat regarded the libels against him as having been a means of furthering an agenda of division between India and Pakistan by publishing unfounded allegations against him because of his Pakistani heritage. The programme’s presenter had indulged in such conduct before. In December 2020 the Defendant was fined £20,000 by Ofcom because he engaged in hate speech against Pakistani people and failed to take any steps to prevent or challenge a number of offensive comments from contributors.

Mr Musssarat complained to the Defendant but obtained no response, although two of its directors quickly resigned their positions. Soon after, “Republic Bharat” ceased broadcasting and the Defendant ceased trading.

Proceedings were issued and ignored. Mr Mussarat therefore sought judgment in default and summary disposal under s.8 Defamation Act 1996.

He limited his claim for damages to £10,000 and sought an injunction and a declaration of falsity. As to the last of these the approach of Warby J in Pirtek (UK) Ltd v Jackson [2017] EWHC 2834 (QB) was that it would only be appropriate to make such a declaration in an exceptional case. However, at [35] Dep Master Toogood referred to Mawdsley v Guardian [2002] EWHC 17890 (QB); Jon Richard Ltd v Gornal [2013] EWHC 1357 (QB) and Easeman v Ford [2016] EWHC 1576 (QB) as support for using a declaration of falsity as part of a pragmatic package.

Accordingly, in addition to the maximum statutory award, an injunction and costs, a declaration that the meaning summarised above was false was made.

William McCormick QC, instructed by Alan Preston of Preston & Co. represented Mr Mussarat.

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