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#MeToo movement cannot be misused, victim decides not to file complaint against Vikas Bahl

#MeToo movement cannot be misused, victim decides not to file complaint against Vikas Bahl

Aditya AK

The hearing in the defamation case filed by Director Vikas Bahl against Anurag Kashyap and others took an unexpected turn today, when the victim who was allegedly sexually harassed by Bahl submitted to the Bombay High Court that she did not want to file a complaint against him.

The matter was heard in chambers today by Justice SJ Kathawalla at 5 pm. Although the victim did not appear in Court today, she was represented by Senior Counsel Navroz Seervai, who submitted that his client did not want to file a complaint against Vikas Bahl.

During the last hearing on Wednesday, the Court had directed that the victim be made a formal defendant in the defamation suit filed by Bahl. However, today, she expressed her desire not to be part of the proceedings, albeit standing by the statements she made that were published in the Huffington Post article.

The Court asked the victim’s counsel to file a statement averring that his client does not want to file any complaint against Bahl. In response, Seervai submitted to Kathawalla J that he would make an oral statement to that effect, which could be recorded in the order.

Pertinently, the Court observed that the #MeToo movement cannot be misused by anybody, and that nobody can use the victim’s shoulder to fire allegations of sexual harassment.

No order was passed after today’s hearing. The matter will come up again on Tuesday.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a former employee of Phantom Films – of which Bahl, Kashyap and Motwane were Directors – came forth with allegations that Bahl had sexually harassed her in 2015. The survivor’s account was published on online news portals, and Kashyap and Motwane had verified the allegations against Bahl through Twitter. This prompted Bahl to file a civil defamation suit in the Bombay High Court seeking damages of Rs. 10 crore.

Bahl alleges in his suit filed against Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and a number of publications including Huffington Post and Economic Times, that they had published false, malicious, unsubstantiated imputations, allegations and statements against him.

Specific reference is made to an article published on Huffington Post on October 6 titled ‘Queen Director Vikas Bahl Sexually Assaulted Me, Phantom Films Did Nothing: Survivor Speaks Out’. In the article, a crew member who worked at Phantom Films alleged that Bahl had sexually assaulted her at a party in May 2015.

<em>The original article that appeared on Huffington Post</em>
The original article that appeared on Huffington Post

The article alleges Bahl to have “put his hand inside her dress” despite resistance; “dropped his pants and began to masturbate onto her back”; that he verbally abused her when his alleged advances were refused; and harassed her at work during the months following the incident. The article was then carried by a number of other publications, and the allegations made therein were given credence to by Kashyap and Motwane.

With reference to the co-Directors of the now-defunct Phantom Films, Bahl claims that they made the statements on Twitter with an intent to settle personal scores, owing to disagreements they had with him in the past.

“Defendant Nos. 1 and 2 (Kashyap and Motwane), taking advantage of the ongoing “#MeToo” movement in the country, published false, malicious, unsubstantiated imputations, allegations and statements against the Plaintiff through their twitter accounts and other social media platforms. Defendant Nos. 3 to 8 have further circulated and continue to circulate defamatory stories about the Plaintiff through their social media platforms.”

The plaint further states neither has any criminal complaint been filed by the victim, nor has Bahl been called upon for investigation with respect to the alleged incident. Further, it is stated that the victim continued to work for Phantom Films, and had a purely professional relationship even after the said alleged incident took place.

Therefore, Bahl has sought a permanent injunction against the defendants restraining them from publishing defamatory articles/posts against him. An order has been sought to direct Kashyap and Motwane, as well as the publications to delete the allegedly defamatory tweets and articles against Bahl, who has sought damages amounting to Rs. 10 crore with interest at the rate of 18% p.a. till the date of payment of the same.

Bahl was represented by Sharan Jagtiani and Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud, who were briefed by a team from Juris Corp including Hitesh Jain, Subhash Jadhav, Shradha Achliya and Rupesh Geete. Kashyap and Motwane were represented by Senior Advocate Venkatesh Dhond, along with Astad Randeria, Priyanka Khimani and Nirali Sanghavi of Anand and Anand & Khimani.

Senior Counsel Aspi Chinoy appeared for Madhu Mantena. Ashish Pyasi, Pragya Khaitan, Umang Thakar and Ashlesha Raut of Dhir and Dhir Associates represented Deccan Chronicle. Vijay Hiremath represented Times of India and Economic Times.

The matter will be next heard on Tuesday, October 23.

Read the plaint: