On Monday, November 23, the Delhi High Court passed an interim order in a defamation lawsuit filed by WhiteHat Jr founder Karan Bajaj against the ed-tech startup’s critic Pradeep Poonia.
The court order restrains software engineer Poonia from accessing the company’s curriculum and internal communication channels (Slack) and disseminating information from those sources in public until the next hearing on January 6, 2021,
He has also been restrained from commenting online on the quality of the personnel who teach coding to school students through WhiteHat Jr’s platform and to take down a few tweets that had referred to the startup as a “pyramid scheme”.
“The suit entails several disputed questions of fact which it would be improper to enter upon at this stage. However, there are some facts which require an injunction,” said Justice Mukta Gupta of Delhi HC.
Poonia has also been restrained from using the keyword “WhiteHat” for his YouTube channel until the next hearing.
During the court proceedings, Poonia said he had not downloaded any curriculum from Whitehat Jr – which teaches coding to school children online — or hacked into its system, and was therefore willing to suffer an injunction on this count.
Meanwhile, Bajaj told ET, “There’s a narrative being played around that we are suppressing criticism, whereas we are welcoming fact-based criticism and making amends wherever necessary as we did recently with our marketing campaign.”
Referring to the defamation case against Poonia, Bajaj said, “But is this criticism when you breach into our system, take up a fake identity to call our teachers and refer to them with defaming comments like calling them housewives who are not trained? There’s nothing to learn from here.”
“Our case was only against these things and the court has agreed on those. We don’t want to stop criticism,” he added.
Poonia told ET, “WhiteHatJr has been systematically trying to shut down criticism, the history of which is well-documented in various articles. They have created fictional children who earn 20 crores, attributed false accomplishments, such as a TedX talk that never was and have made completely baseless claims without regard for the facts or for the effects that these statements may have on young children. My intention was and is only to expose these false and unethical business practices, generate public debate on important issues that could affect a whole generation of youngsters who buy into this false propaganda. They sought a sweeping gag order and wanted to prevent me from ever referring to them using trademarks as a basis. I’m glad they didn’t get what they sought from the court. I will be filing a detailed response to their claims.”
On Monday, WhiteHat Jr has also filed another defamation lawsuit against another critic, angel investor Aniruddha Malpani, seeking damages worth $1.9 million. The case will be heard in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday.
Last month, WhiteHat Jr was asked to withdraw five of its ads by advertising regulatory body ASCI. The ads, which had gone live in August, claimed that knowledge of coding enabled children as young as six and seven to develop apps that will have investors lining up.
Source: The Economic Times
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