#METOO MOVEMENT AND DEFAMATION LAW IN INDIA

#METOO MOVEMENT AND DEFAMATION LAW IN INDIA

In recent months we came across a term which originated from western countries like USA,UK, etc. The journey of this term # is very long as it crossed seas and oceans and finally reached in our country. After targeting several powerful and eminent personalities of world including the US president Donald Trump it came with its full zeal and courage and began its journey from film industry and finally reached in the premise of the apex court directly hitting the Chief Justice Of India Ranjan Gogoi .Before reaching to the ‘Temple of Justice’ it also travelled in the verandha of parliament and news rooms hitting a number of eminent persons. The article will exclusively cover relevance of defamation law with special emphasis on # movement.

#METOO movement has gained momentum in India. Many celebrities are coming up on stage and are joining this campaign.Over the last several months, a number of women coming from different arena have called out influential men, actors, stand up comedians, senior journalists and politicians for alleged sexual harassment. The list of alleged men is very long but some very prominent are names of famous Bollywood celebrities like Nana Patekar, Amitabh Bachchan, Sajid Khan, Anu Malik, Alok Nath and recently MJ Akbar resigned from his ministerial post after he was alleged by Priya Ramani.

Recent cases pertaining to #METOO movement

M J Akbar
Former Union minister
Several women journalists, including Pallavi Gogoi, Priya Ramani, Ghazala Wahab and Shutapa Paul and Tushita Patel came out with detailed accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Akbar when he held senior editorial positions at various media organisation.

M J Akbar has called all the allegations against him false and fabricated. He has further accused Priya Ramani of “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously” defaming him. Akbar has vehemently denied the allegations of rape leveled by Pallavi Gogoi and said that he was in a consensual relationship with her.

The Editors Guild of India on Thursday, through an official statement, requested M J Akbar to withdraw his defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani. Akbar has also filed a defamation case in Delhi’s Patiala House court against Priya Ramani. The court has fixed October 31 for the next hearing. Meanwhile, 20 women journalists have come out in support of their colleagues and urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar. On Wednesday, Akbar resigned as minister of state for external affairs following the spate of sexual misconduct accusations leveled by several women against him.

Rahul Johri
BCCI CEO

Johri has been accused of misbehavior by an unnamed person, who claimed to be an ex-colleague of Johri at the Discovery Channel. The messages were posted on Twitter by an author, Harnidh Kaur, who later stated that she did not want the charges published nor her name used in the context.

Johri was the executive VP and GM (South Asia), for Discovery Networks (Asia Pacific) before he joined the BCCI in June 2016.

Discovery India, the previous employer of Rahul Johri, said through an official statement, “During his (Rahul Johri’s) tenure at Discovery, there were no reports of any misconduct against him.”

A three-member panel set up by CoA to probe the charges has given clean chit to Johri.

Bhushan Kumar
T-Series chairman

An anonymous Twitter user, claiming to be an actress, has accused Kumar of propositioning her on the pretext of signing a three-movie contract with his production house.

Producer Bhushan Kumar has denied the sexual harassment allegations against him, saying the claims are being used as a “tool to malign his reputation.”

Kumar has lodged a police complaint against the anonymous person.

Jatin Das
Painter

Entrepreneur Nisha Bora and writer Garusha Katoch have accused the artist of sexually harassing them.

Padma Bhushan recipient Das has denied the charges leveled against him by Bora, saying he has never met her. He said the allegations are leveled against people “for the fun of it”.

Alok Nath
Actor

Several Bollywood actresses have leveled allegations of harassment against Alok Nath after writer-producer Vinta Nanda claimed that she was sexually violated by the actor around 19 years ago. Well-known actors such as Sandhya Mridul and Amyra Dastur, singer Sona Mohapatra and Nath’s co-star Navneet Nishan came out about their unsavory harassment experiences.

Alok Nath has dismissed all the allegations leveled against him. He says it is useless to react to these allegations since “in today’s world, whatever a woman says, only that will be considered.”

Alok Nath has moved a civil suit against writer-director Vinta Nanda, seeking a public apology and Re 1 as damages. Nanda has lodged an official complaint against Nath at Oshiwara Police Station in Mumbai. Actor Alok Nath has refused to respond to a notice issued to him by the Indian Film and Television Directors Association (IFTDA) over the harassment allegations. IFTDA has now decided to take strong action against the actor. The Cine and TV Artists Association (CINTAA) expelled Alok Nath following various allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct

#METOO MOVEMENT AND DEFAMATION LAW IN INDIA

Arjan Sarja
Actor

Kannada actress Sruthi Hariharan, through a Facebook post, has accused co-star Arjun Sarja of inappropriately touching her during the shoot of ‘Vismaya’. Later at a press conference, Sruthi said four other actresses had also narrated similar experiences, but they remained anonymous.

Arjun has denied the allegations leveled against him by Sruthi. He said, “I never expected this. I have acted with 60-70 heroines in 150 movies, but no one has pointed fingers at me. I plan to sue Sruthi Hariharan for these allegations.”

Nana Patekar
Actor

Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta has accused Nana Patekar of sexual misconduct during the shooting of ‘Horn ‘OK’ Pleassss’ in 2008.

Nana Patekar denied the allegations citing them as false accusations by the actress. He described Tanushree’s claims of sexual harassment a ‘lie’.

Tanushree Dutta has filed an FIR with the police against Nana Patekar, choreographer Ganesh Acharya, director Rakesh Sarang and producer Samee Siddiqui. In response, Patekar has slapped Dutta with a legal notice and demanded a written apology from her.

Kangana Ranaut
Actor
Actor Adhyayan Suman has alleged that Kangana abused him physically and emotionally during their relationship.

Sajid Khan
Director/actor

Sajid Khan has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, including actors Saloni Chopra and Simran Suri as well as journalist Karishma Upadhyay.

Sajid Khan has not accepted any of the accusations leveled against him. The filmmaker has asked the media and the people to wait for the truth to come out and not pass any judgement.

Dibakar Banerjee
Director

Actress Payal Rohatgi has accused Dibakar of sexual misconduct. Payal said Dibakar tried to take advantage of her in lieu of offering her a role in one of his upcoming films in 2011.

Vikas Bahl
Director

Vikas Bahl was accused of sexual harassment last year by a former employee of the film collective Phantom Films, for an incident that took place in 2015 in Goa. Bahl’s partners Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane came out in support of the allegations, with the former dissolving their production house Phantom. Post this, actor Kangana Ranaut also alleged that Bahl used to ‘bury his face in her neck’ and ‘hold her really tight’.

The filmmaker has filed a defamatory suit against Anurag Kashyap and Vikamaditya Motwane in the high court. Vikas reportedly stated that the entire case of sexual harassment against him was orchestrated by Anurag and Vikramaditya “as a result of professional jealousy and with the sole intent to defame him, malign his image and destroy his career.”

Following sexual harassment allegations, Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) had reportedly taken a stern stand against Vikas Bahl by issuing a show-cause notice asking him to respond within one week’s time, failing to which, his membership will be terminated. Vikas Bahl has now responded to the notice, denying all the allegations leveled against him. He has also requested IFTDA not to terminate his membership without giving him a personal hearing

Anu Malik
Music director/ singer

Singer Shweta Pandit has accused Anu Malik of sexually harassing her when she was 15 years old.

Rubbishing all allegations, Anu Malik’s lawyer had earlier said in a statement, “The allegations made against my client are emphatically denied as completely false and baseless. My client respects the #metoo movement but to use this movement to start a character assassination mission is obnoxious.”

Meanwhile, singer Alisha Chenoy has come forward to validate the allegations against Malik, claiming that “every word said and written about Anu Malik is true.”

The question of concern and matter of law with which this movement is linked is –

1)Whether there is an option for the accused person to prove himself innocent after becoming a part of #METOO movement?
2)Can influential people silent the allegations of made on them?
3)How is defamation dealt in USA from where #METOO began its journey?

If any wrong imputation is made on any person which can lower his/her image in society he /she can file a case of defamation against such person and can claim monetary compensation from that person if defamation is of civil nature; but if the defamation is of criminal nature it will attract an imprisonment of two years. In #METOO movement MJ Akbar filed a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramanni, Alok Nath also filed criminal defamation case against Vinita Nanda who dragged him in this movement. From above examples we can see that an accused person can approach the court under section 499 and section500 of IPC. In India defamation is a bailable,non cognizable and compoundable offence.

Influential people can silent the allegations of sexual assault made on them by invoking section 499 and 500 of IPC as in this case burden to prove the allegation lies on defendant.

Defamation Law in USA

In 1965 the US courts incorporated some changes in dealing with defamation law such that it can’t be used to molest and harass someone. They provided more space to the Journalists so that they can work freely. They also made provision of punishing those who defame someone intentionally without any logic behind such defamation but, they provided more space to freedom of speech and expression. In USA defamation is a civil wrong and attracts penalty.

Conclusion

At this point of time we can not decide that whether #METOO movement is effective or not. As per above elaborated cases we can conclude that in many cases accusations were wrong as it was not proved in court but also in many cases the allegations were right leading to resigning of accused and continuation of legal actions on him. CJI Gogoi was given clean chit by court over allegations of sexual misconduct. In a nut shell I can quote,” Defamation Law can act as a balancing tool between freedom of speech and expression and Right to reputation and Right to live with dignity”.

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