HC rejects plea seeking media ban on sexual abuse case

The Delhi high court was hearing a plea seeking recovery of damages for defamation, to restrain a woman from defaming him and take down the alleged defamatory content. Photo: PTI File.

The Delhi High court on Thursday (October 31) has refused to entertain a plea to restrain media reporting in a sexual harassment case, saying it could be filed only before the court where the main matter is pending.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said prima facie it is not open for another court to enter into the controversy and take call on the respective merits of the case of the complainant and the person against whom the complaint has been made.

It is not for another court to pass any orders restraining media reporting of such proceeding, inasmuch as legal and court proceedings are in public domain and in open court and media reporting thereof is only an extension of the court room, the court said.

The court was hearing a plea seeking recovery of damages for defamation, to restrain a woman from defaming him and take down the alleged defamatory content.

The allegedly defamatory allegations are regarding the complaint of sexual harassment at work place made by the woman against the man and the legal proceedings from it.

It was the case of the man that the woman has been leaking to the media, her version of the complaint and the legal proceedings.

The court said prima facie it appears that when the complainant in such cases of sexual harassment has come forward, identifying herself and has taken legal recourse, the order restraining her from going to the media can be made only by the court which is seized of the prosecution or complaint.

It is that court only which is equipped to take a call on the merits of the complaint, the high court said.

Regarding the issue of prejudice, Justice Endlaw said it is only the court which is seized of the proceedings initiated by the complainant, that can judge whether the proceedings in the case before it are being correctly reported or not, and the same cannot be judged in a parallel proceeding.

“The plaintiff (man) having himself opened up another platform of litigation with the defendant (woman), cannot, in my view, seek restraint against reporting if any by the defendant of the filing of the present suit or the proceedings therein.

“A plaintiff cannot institute a suit to prevent media reporting of the suit or proceedings therein. Moreover, till there is no restraint against media reporting of the other legal proceedings initiated by the defendant, restraint of media reporting of the present proceedings will serve no purpose,” the judge said.