HC restrains former hockey coach, publisher from publishing Gurjit Kaur’s medical condition in book

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Monday restrained former coach of Indian women’s Hockey team Sjoerd Marijne and publisher of his book ‘Will Power’ from publishing about the medical condition of celebrated player Gurjit Kaur.

A division bench of the high court passed the interim order on a plea by Kaur challenging a single judge’s order of September 15 refusing to stay the release of the book.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Amit Sharma said it was of the view that the author of the book, which is scheduled to be released on September 21, owes a “duty of care” to Kaur, who was in his charge as an international hockey player, at all relevant times.

It restrained HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt Ltd and Marijne, a Dutchman, from publishing the book or any other related matter so far as it relates to Kaur’s medical condition.

The bench said the assertion that Kaur’s teammates were privy to her medical condition also does not come to the aid of the publisher as prime facie they would be also bound by the code of conduct which evidently precludes them from disclosing or divulging the said information to third parties.

“In view of the foregoing, the publishers as well as the author arrayed as respondents 1 and 2 in the present appeal are restrained by an ad-interim injunction from publishing the subject book or any other matter incidental thereto or any other matter related to the subject book in so far as it relates to Gurjit Kaur’s medical condition,” the division bench said.

It observed the coach was bound by the code of conduct which clearly and unequivocally required him not to disclose information entrusted to him in confidence, inter alia, for personal gain or benefit or to damage the reputation of any person.

The bench noted that plaintiff Kaur is a celebrated hockey player and one of India’s leading goalscorers at national and international events.

In the book, Kaur submitted, the author proposes to divulge certain confidential information about her medical condition in gross violation of the code of confidentiality by which the author was bound as the coach of the Indian hockey team.

She said her medical condition came to the knowledge of her coach during the period of his engagement with the team.

Referring to Supreme Court judgements, Kaur’s counsel submitted that publication of the book disclosing confidential information about her medical condition breached her right to privacy and amounted to violation of the code of conduct of Hockey India to which the author is bound and, therefore, the release of the book ought to be injuncted.

The division bench also issued notice to the publisher and the author.

The counsel for the publisher argued there will not be any confidentiality of any sports personality in so far as it relates to the game and that there cannot be any reasonable expectation about it.

The counsel said the player’s medical information was already in public domain.

The high court, however, underlined there can be no quarrel with the dictum of the Supreme Court that the right to protection of data such as medical information is one that falls squarely within the domain of reasonable expectation paradigm.

It said there was nothing to establish that the medical information contained in the book was or is in the public domain as yet.

The bench listed the matter for further hearing on December 7.

On September 15, the single judge, while refusing to grant any interim relief, had issued notice to the publisher and the author on the main suit and listed the matter for November 18.

The single judge had said he was not inclined to pass an ad-interim order staying the launch of the book without giving the defendants an opportunity to place their stand on affidavit.

While giving reasons for not passing an ad interim order, the judge had said the player does not deny that she suffered from the medical condition and there cannot be any confidentiality or privacy with regard to a medical condition of a sports personality.

“On a regular basis, there are news reports about injuries and medical conditions of sports personalities. If the plaintiff has been playing with this medical condition for many years, the medical condition cannot remain confidential.”

“The manuscript of the book reveals that the plaintiff told all other teammates of this medical condition and they all rallied around her. There are laudatory references to the plaintiff in the manuscript of the book that despite the medical condition of the plaintiff, she has achieved success in the international field,” the single judge had said, adding that no prejudice can be caused to the player with the publication of the book.

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