A Delhi trial court on Tuesday refused a plea by RK Pachauri, the former Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute, for a gag order against media coverage of the sexual harassment allegations against him. However, the court said all reportage on the matter should carry Pachauri’s views or that of his representatives and indicate that the matter is pending before the court.
Pachauri had filed the plea for injunction and defamation seeking damages amounting to Rs 1 crore against some media houses, one of the women who had complained against him, and her lawyer.
Pachauri was accused of sexually harassing a female colleague in 2015. When the woman filed a complaint against Pachauri last year, he immediately moved a Delhi court for anticipatory bail and the police was initially restrained from arresting him. He was never arrested during the investigation.
The former TERI director general claimed that the women’s allegations against him, covered by several media houses, was damaging his reputation.
Rejecting Pachauri’s contention, the court said he has to be under the public gaze since he was a well-known person. “Such restraints [the injunction] 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,” the court order said.
However, the court issued certain guidelines to the media on reporting the case. It said that any reportage should either carry the views of Pachauri or his representative. If comments are not given by either, the report should indicate that an effort was made to obtain the comments.
Secondly, the court said a line should be added to denote “that the matter is still subjudice or the matter is still pending in the Court or final decision in the case is still awaited”.
On March 1, 2016, the Delhi Police had filed a 1,400-page chargesheet against Pachauri for allegedly sexually harassing a former woman colleague. He had also been accused of stalking and criminally intimidating the victim.
Reports said that after a year-long investigation into the case against Pachauri, police had found more than 6,000 texts and WhatsApp messages between him and the complainant between September 2013 and February 2015, besides 34 calls he had made to her in that time. In February 2016, another woman accused Pachauri of sexually harassing her.