The Delhi High Court has lifted its 2017 gag order restraining publication of articles and comments on sexual harassment allegations against Mumbai-based venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy, Live Law reported on Wednesday.
The order was passed by Justice Jayant Nath on Monday, while hearing a defamation case filed by Murthy against 18 defendants. He sought damages amounting to Rs 2.5 crore over their alleged defamatory posts and comments.
“The said defendants have a right to exercise their right of freedom of speech,” Nath observed. “If these incidents and claims of the said defendants are in trial proved to be false, the plaintiff would have a right to claim damages.”
The court noted, prima facie, it cannot be said that the defendants have no case against Murthy or were misusing their freedom of speech to tarnish or defame him. “The facts show that as per defendants number 1, 2, 15 and 16, they have had an unpleasant or perhaps more than unpleasant experience with the plaintiff,” it added. “These facts, the said defendants and other defendants seek to place in public domain.”
Murthy had claimed that the accusers made allegations against him as he refused to invest in their business proposals. However, the court said it appeared to be a “bald plea”.
The court added that it was not convinced to “fetter the narration” of the alleged facts by the defendants. “The plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case,” the judge added. “In my opinion, balance of convenience is also not in favour of the plaintiff”.
Murthy said he will be filing an appeal and that “justice will prevail”, according to Hindustan Times.
Author Rashmi Bansal and entrepreneur Pooja Chauhan were among those who had accused him of harassment. Publications like SheThePeople, FactorDaily and YourStory were also defendants in the case for reports highlighting sexual harassment allegations against the venture capitalist.