Why was RK Pachauri’s plea for injunction against media coverage of sexual harassment rejected

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A Delhi Trial Court on 13th February 2018 rejected R.K. Pachauri’s plea for a gag order against media reportage covering the allegations made by women that he had sexually harassed them when they worked in TERI. In April 2016, R.K. Pachauri had filed this suit for injunction and defamation seeking damages of Rs. 1 Crore against media houses, against  one of the women who spoke out about being sexually harassed by him and against her lawyer Advocate Vrinda Grover.

In the suit for injunction R.K. Pachauri claimed that his reputation was being damaged by media reportage covering women’s accounts of the manner in which he sexually harassed them while they worked in TERI.

In February 2015, a woman employee of TERI filed an FIR against R.K. Pachauri for sexually harassing her, this was followed by several other women speaking out about how they were similarly sexually harassed by R.K. Pachauri while they worked in TERI at different points of time.

These have been widely reported:

  • F.I.R against R.K. Pachauri (click HERE)
  • Second woman speaks out about sexual harassment by R.K. Pachauri (click HERE)
  • Third woman speaks out about sexual harassment by R.K. Pachauri (click HERE)
  • A total of nine women have spoken out about sexual harassment by R.K. Pachauri while they worked in TERI (click HERE)

The Delhi Trial Court on 13th February 2018 rejected R.K. Pachauri’s claim of damage to his reputation or that his right to fair trial was being adversely affected:

“Now that being the position of law, the injunction as sought for falls foul to the said explicit proposition of law. Such restraints as sought for not only amounts to enforcing a gag order upon the media but at the same time prevents a right of the public to be kept updated about the developments – their right to know is infracted or trampled upon.” (Para 43)

“A line of argument was advanced on behalf of plaintiff side that plaintiff was not holding any public office and hence viz a viz him or in relation to his affairs the defendant no.1,2 and 3 also could not contend that they were writing or commenting about a public figure or the same was in the larger public interest. Now to my mind this is only a trifle or inconsequent argument – it is not merely that media can make fair comment only in respect of public persons holding public office. The plaintiff himself had stated that he is a recipient of various awards/well decorated and also claims himself to be a leading luminary in his field having national and international stature. Thus, he has a public persona or is a public figure and has to be under public gaze.” (Para 44)

“ In the case in hand, the nature of allegations/statements were no doubt pricking or the pitch of the same was shrilled/annoying and it could also be said that the statements were challenging/provoking in nature but it cannot be said that they had cross over the threshold to qualify them of being of such a nature which would lead to disturbance of public order or any other like serious clear and present danger was revealed or manifested. Though a protest was also there at the office of the plaintiff on 12.02.2016 however, the same may have been done in the zest of being noticed or to cause annoyance and discomfort to the plaintiff or even to raise awareness about the issue of sexual harassment or even may be to elicit the response of the plaintiff. However, the said statements were not of such a nature which would fall within the category of ‘incitement’. (Para 51)

Click HERE for the court order

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