New Delhi: The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) has filed a lawsuit claiming damages to the tune of Rs 50 crore against The Caravan magazine, citing “grave harassment and injury” for its cover story of February 2011 issue which focussed on the institute’s main man Arindam Chaudhuri. The article, titled “Sweet Smell of Success: How Arindam Chaudhuri Made a Fortune Off the Aspirations—and Insecurities—of India’s Middle Classes”, was written by Siddhartha Deb, a contributing editor at The Caravan and a university professor based in New York.
In addition to The Caravan and its proprietors, the suit charges Siddhartha Deb, Penguin (the publisher of the upcoming book by Deb of which the article forms a chapter), and Google India (which, the suit alleges, has been “publishing, distributing, giving coverage, circulating, blogging the defamatory, libellous and slanderous articles”).
The article is a critical look at its head Arindam Chaudhuri and the institute’s business practices. It had become a talking point when it was published and was widely shared and blogged about in the cyberspace.
The suit against The Caravan has been filed not in Delhi, where both IIPM and the magazine’s publisher, Delhi Press, are based, but 2,200 km away in Silchar, Assam. The case at the Court of Civil Judge in Silchar district was reportedly filed by one Kishorendu Gupta, who reportedly operates Gupta Electrical Engineers in a Silchar suburb, and is the first plaintiff. Sources said IIPM is the second plaintiff.
According to The Caravan, “The civil court in Silchar granted IIPM a preliminary injunction, enjoining Delhi Press to remove the article in question from their Website, ex-parte, without any pre-hearing notice.”
The Caravan also says, “Kishorendu Gupta is a commissioned agent who works for IIPM on a contractual basis. Although Gupta is called a counsellor, a contract between Gupta and IIPM shows Gupta is a recruitment agent who has commercial interest and is paid for his service on a commission basis. IIPM’s contract with Gupta states:
‘for number of students enrolled between 1 to 24, the compensation would be 75,000 per student …[and] for anyone who crosses the 25 students mark, the compensation would be 90,000 per student…[and] for anyone who crosses the 50 student mark, the compensation would be 1,25,000 per student” (From the agreement submitted by the plaintiffs in the court).’”
The Caravan has said its parent company Delhi Press will fight the case and publish the updates in its 30 magazines in nine languages, which together have a readership of over 30 million people.
Ibnlive tried to contact IIPM officials but has been unsuccessful till now.
IIPM has earlier filed similar lawsuits against certain other publishers, also in Silchar, Assam.
In 2005, IIPM filed a case against Rashmi Bansal, a blogger and editor of Just Another Magazine (JAM), who published an article in print and online questioning many of the claims made by IIPM in its brochures and advertisements which highlighted that IIPM had not been accredited by any Indian agency such as AICTE, UGC or under other state acts. IIPM managed to get an ex-parte order from the court, forcing Bansal to remove the article from the Website.
In 2009, Careers360 magazine, published by Maheshwar Peri, who is also the publisher of Outlook magazine, published an article titled “IIPM - Best only in claims?” investigating the truthfulness of many of the claims made by IIPM in their advertisements. It reported that though IIPM claimed that its students were eligible for MBA degrees from IMI, Belgium, NVAO, the accreditation organisation of Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium), did not recognise IMI itself. It also reported that following a local agitation against the opening of a new campus in Dehradun, the Uttarakhand government had asked the Uttarakhand Technical University to conduct a probe into the activities of IIPM with which IIPM allegedly did not co-operate. IIPM, again, filed a case against the magazine and the publisher in Silchar, and obtained ex-parte restraint against them. The IIPM also filed a criminal case against Maheshwar Peri from Uttarakhand, which was subsequently quashed by the High Court. The cases against Rashmi Bansal and Careers360 are both still underway at the Silchar courts.