Observing that “the media by its reporting should throw more 'light rather than generate heat”, a Delhi court on Monday refused to put a gag order on the media from reporting on the issue of allegation of sexual harassment against former TERI chief RK Pachauri but added that any reportage should consider his views or that of his representatives and denote that the matter is subjudice.
Additional district judge Sumit Dass refused to restrain media from reporting on the subject and vacated the order passed by his predecessor on February 25 last year directing the media that if it is going to publish any interview or to speak against Pachauri, they should publish in subtitle that “in any court, the allegations have not been proved and they may not be correct”.
ADJ Dass, however, passed following directions which, he said, should be complied “scrupulously by defendant no. 1,2 & 3 (Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd, NDTV Ltd, The India Today Group respectively) and other media houses:
(i)That while publishing or telecasting of any news/reports/articles with regard to the subject as involved in the present suit, they shall take into consideration the views/comments of the plaintiff or his authorized representative on the said subject. In the event if such views or comments are not given by them then a statement as to the fact that an effort was made to ascertain their views should also be made in the news, articles of programmes, as the case may be. That would project the stand of both the parties on the issue and also would be in consonance with guidelines in this regard.
Pachuri stands accused of sexually harassing women and had moved court for injunction on media from reporting on the issue saying the same was damaging his reputation.
The initial complaint was filed way back in year 2015 by a female employee of TERI.
On the other hand, the media houses and activist Vrinda Grover, and the complainant had claimed that they have right to publish such articles being in public interest or in which public interest is involved, there cannot be any gag order on the media or press as it would defeat the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression.
Grover, who is also the counsel appearing for the complainant and the complainant herself, had also pleaded justification of truth as well as privilege.
While vacating the order passed by his predecessor last year, ADJ Dass said, “The directions were that the incident can be reported with certain disclaimers or caveats. Now if the media cannot be restrained by way of any injunction - no gag order can be passed against the media, by adopting the same principle or analogy the media/defendant no. 1,2 and 3 also cannot be compelled to report or published the matter in any particular way or laced with condition so that the innocence of the plaintiff is prominently highlighted or displayed. As a matter of fact, if a person cannot be gagged then also he cannot be coerced to speak in a particular manner. Both affront the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression.”
While visiting the role of media and journalistic ethics in times of cut throat competition, the court concluded the discussion by using a phrase, “the media by its reporting should throw more 'light rather than generate heat' on the subject or issue as the same would not only enlighten the viewers/readers, commensurate with their right to know and being informed rather than stoking the passions or stirring the emotions”.