The Delhi High Court Thursday restrained the media from further publishing or telecasting allegations of sexual harassment against former Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar by a former law intern. The media was directed to limit reporting to court orders only.
Justice Manmohan, in an interim order, also restrained the telecast or printing of offending contents and photographs of Justice Kumar, and directed that offending contents and photographs of his be removed from the internet too within a day.
The court issued notice to newspapers, news channels and the former law intern and posted the matter for hearing Feb 24.
Justice Kumar, who is chairman of the National Green Tribunal, filed a defamation case against media organisations Indian Express, TimesNow and CNN-IBN, and the former intern.
While the intern alleged she was sexually harassed, the media organisations reported the allegations.
Justice Kumar had sought damages of Rs.5 crore from the media organisations and the intern.
The high court in the order observed that the law intern had filed the complaint after two-and-a-half years, and said “there should be a limitation of time for the purpose of filing of such complaints, otherwise no one would know when the complaint ought to have been filed and decided. Thus, a balanced approach has to be taken, particularly, in these types of matters”.
“In the present case, assuming the complaint filed by the defendant No.5 (intern) is found to be false after inquiry, then who would ultimately compensate and return the repute and sufferings of the plaintiff (Justice Kumar) and mental torture caused to him and his family members,” the court said.
In the defamation suit, it was said that Justice Kumar in the 43 years of his career had earned an impeccable reputation and was well known for his “unimpeachable integrity and high moral values” and was held in high esteem by everyone.
The defamation suit said the media organisations published the law intern’s version to defame him.
“The reckless and irresponsible actions of media organisations … have caused grave and irreparable injury to the reputation of the plaintiff and degraded the dignity of the institution of justice.
“The said acts lowered the esteem of the plaintiff in the estimation of the public at large and his colleagues, staff, peers and members of his social circle,” the suit said.
Justice Kumar said he was presently presiding over the NGT and fearlessly adjudicating matters listed before him, which involve the interests of corporate and industrial houses besides public interest.
The former judge said the intern had hardly worked for three days in his residential office in May 2011. Given the presence of two or three clerks and office staff at all times in and around his office, it was impossible that the alleged incident took place, he said.