TERI Executive Vice Chairman RK Pachauri has dragged advocate Vrinda Grover and several media houses to court over their releasing statements from women alleging sexual harassment against the scientist.
In the civil suit filed before District Judge Amar Nath through his lawyer Ashish Dixit, Pachauri has asked a city court to restrain media houses from publishing the statements which he claimed are unverified and prejudicial to a harassment and molestation complaint filed against him by a former junior colleague at the institute last year.
Interestingly, the suit asks for damages of Rs. 1 crore from Grover -- not for defamation but for disseminating “unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations” that “have tendency to prejudice” the sexual harassment complaint against the Pachauri that was filed in February last year. It also makes the first woman to release a statement through Grover a party to the suit.
The court issued notice on the suit on April 5 for April 8. The media houses appeared before the DJ and were given till April 19 to file their replies to Pachauri’s suit.
The statements releases were “orchestrated” to time with when the criminal case against Pachauri would come up before the magistrate’s court to create an “adverse atmosphere and negative public opinion” against him, the suit says and adds that this “would lead to situation where the Plaintiff may not be able to put forward his defence properly which shall seriously impair the right of fair trial to the Plaintiff.
“It is submitted that publicity with all lurid details, interview of complainant, filing of charge sheet etc. may induce feeling of hostility among members of public and thereby consciously or unconsciously building up pressures on the Courts,” the suit saiid
Interestingly, the suit does not seek injunctions against Grover. Pachauri’s lawyer Dixit told HT, “We don’t want to impinge upon anyone’s freedom of speech. If police or court takes any action should be reported. But unverfied statements shouldn’t be allowed to be reported.”
As per sources, advocate Vrinda Grover has not been served a copy of the suit, but the court has directed that the same be served upon her by the next date of hearing.
Speaking to HT, Grover said that she was acting on the instructions of the two women who had come to her after hearing about the criminal complaint being lodged in February last year.
“I am a lawyer and so I can only act on instructions. I do not track his case as I’m not the complainant’s lawyers and these women came to me and asked me to represent them in February 2015 when the FIR was lodged and the whole world got to know about it,” she said.
She added that the statements were a severe blow to Pachauri’s defense in the criminal case that his computer had been mis-used to send the complainant the emails she was relying on to show harassment. “No injunction can apply to a woman right to stand up for justice for herself. My real worry is the chilling effect that this will have on the women who are trying to report sexual harassment at the workplace,” Grover said.