WhiteHat Jr's lawsuit against Pradeep Poonia gets a new hearing date; the latter seeks 'documents'

Coding startup WhiteHat Jr has been told by the Delhi High Court to place all "documents" on the record before the next hearing of its lawsuit against Pradeep Poonia.
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BYJU'S-owned coding startup WhiteHat Jr's defamation lawsuit against whistleblower Pradeep Poonia has got a new hearing date from the Delhi High Court.

"The matter" will be next heard on February 1, Delhi HC judge Justice Jayant Nath announced after a brief hearing on Wednesday. The court also directed WhiteHat Jr to place all "documents" on the record before the next date of hearing.

The documents requested by Poonia's lawyer Swathi Sukumar include ASCI's notice seeking removal of WhiteHat Jr's 'Wolf Gupta' and 'Ryan Venkat' ads, consumer complaints from the National Consumer Helpline, and take-down notices from Twitter and YouTube.

“I’m pressing another application against third parties for the production of documents. These documents are important for the proceedings and vacation of the interim order," Sukumar told the court.

Poonia later wrote on LinkedIn, "They [WhiteHat Jr] opposed my requests for these documents and don't want them [sic] to be produced before the Honourable Court."

YourStory requested WhiteHat Jr for an official response on the matter. The company, however, declined to comment.

Pradeep Poonia's LinkedIn post dated Jan 6, 2021

Earlier on November 23, after the Delhi HC had put a temporary gag order on Poonia, restraining him from posting about the company on social media, WhiteHat Jr Founder and CEO Karan Bajaj wrote in a LinkedIn post,

"We didn’t want to go to court. Startups require intense, singular focus with no distraction. But false, unethical attacks, including attempts to breach into company servers and defame women teachers, severely impacted employees and teachers daily. News cycles turned against us because negative stories are far more sensational than the truth.”

He also added, “Legitimate, honest fact-based criticism is truly welcome. Blitzscaling is hard. Fires burn all over. Keep giving us feedback to improve. But lies and illegal breaches damage real lives and take no one forward.”

The Mumbai-based startup, which offers coding courses for school kids, has been in the eye of the storm for overselling and creating misleading marketing campaigns. Poonia, a Cisco engineer, has been one of WhiteHat Jr's staunchest critics since it was acquired by BYJU'S for a whopping $300 million in August 2020.

In November 2020, Karan Bajaj filed a Rs 20-crore lawsuit against Poonia, accusing him of defamation and hacking into its servers, downloading and distributing content and curriculum, trespassing the company’s internal communication channels, and violating trademark and copyright by using ‘WhiteHat Snr’ in his social media profiles.

Later, the Mumbai-based startup also filed a Rs 14-crore defamation suit against Dr Aniruddha Malpani (its other vocal critic and angel investor). WhiteHat Jr alleged that Malpani’s “false tweets” were causing damage to company reputation, and got a gag order on him too. The matter is sub judice, and the next hearing is in three weeks.

Edited by Kanishk Singh