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Madras High Court Restrains Leena Manimekalai & Susi Ganesan From Going To Press On #MeToo Case

Sebin James
20 Jan 2022 5:00 PM GMT
Madras High Court Restrains Leena Manimekalai & Susi Ganesan From Going To Press On #MeToo Case
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Since the matter is subjudice, Susi Ganesan and Manimekalai are injuncted from going to the press with regard to the subject matter of the dispute, the court noted in the order.

The Madras High Court on Thursday passed an interim injunction to restrain filmmaker and poet, Leena Manimekalai and film producer Susi Ganesan from going to the press or making social media comments regarding their respective contentions in the defamation suit filed by the latter over the #MeToo sexual harassment allegations raised by the former. Susi Ganesan had earlier filed a...

The Madras High Court on Thursday passed an interim injunction to restrain filmmaker and poet, Leena Manimekalai and film producer Susi Ganesan from going to the press or making social media comments regarding their respective contentions in the defamation suit filed by the latter over the #MeToo sexual harassment allegations raised by the former.

Susi Ganesan had earlier filed a criminal defamation case against Manimekalai. Now, he has filed a civil defamation suit in the High Court, in which he sought an interim restraint on Manimekalai's public statements against him.

A single-judge bench of Justice Abdul Quddhose, after considering the contentions put forward by Susi Ganesan, came to the conclusion that a prima facie case has been made out for the grant of interim injunction against Manimekalai as prayed for in the plaint. Along with Leena Manimekalai, singer Chinamaye Sripada, Twitter Communications India Private Limited, Google LLC, Meta Inc (Formerly Facebook Inc), The Editor in Chief The News Minute Dhanya Rajendran and Dhivya Marunthiah alias Dhivem have also been arraigned as respondents in the suit.

The Court issued the restraint order against Manimekalai and other respondents from making public statements against Ganesan.

While granting the interim injunction, the court noted that the balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff and that irreparable injury will ensue if the allegations against the plaintiff in the #MeToo Movement is proved wrong in the trial.

"...Irreparable injury will be caused to the plaintiff, if after Trial, this Court finds that there is no truth in the statements made by the defendants. Accordingly, there shall be an order of interim injunction as prayed for in O.A. No.16 of 2022. However, it is made clear that since the matter is subjudice, the applicant and the first defendant (Manimekalai), who has accused the applicant/ plaintiff of sexual harassment, are injuncted from going to the press with regard to the subject matter of the dispute in C.S. No.7 of 2022. Both the plaintiff and the first defendant are directed not to go to the media or tweet messages with regard to their respective contentions as the matter is subjudice", the court noted in its order.

Susi Ganesan filed the civil suit seeking for damages and for permanent injunction restraining the defendants from making defamatory statements against the plaintiff. The plaintiff also submitted that he had previously filed a criminal defamation complaint under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which has been pending before the IX Metropolitan Magistrate, Saidapet, Chennai. 

In the current application, the applicant primarily alleged that Manimekalai, in connivance with singer Chinmaye Sripada who has accused the lyricist Vairamuthu Ramasamy of sexual harassment, posted a tweet that was defamatory enough to negatively impact the career prospects of the plaintiff as a reputed filmmaker. He submitted that the said tweet accused him and his wife of threatening Actress Amala Paul for outing his alleged predatory behaviour. Susi Ganesan also contended that the said tweet was re-tweeted by Chinmaye Sripada, Dhanya Rajendran and Dhivya Maruntaih, along with many others.

According to the tweet posted by Manimekalai that Susi Ganesan refers to, the Director has also threatened Actor Siddharth for supporting Manimekalai's #MeToo Tweet. Manimekalai further recounted her harrowing experiences surrounding the Passport Impounding issue.

According to the applicant/ plaintiff, the statements made by Manimekalai on the public platforms are highly defamatory, absolutely false and intended to tarnish the reputation of the former. Sharing screenshots of the allegedly defamatory statements made by Manimekalai along with other documents filed with the plaint, the petitioner tried to convince the court that the already published statements hosted in the Internet Platforms of Meta INC, Google LLC, Twitter as well as by Divya Maruntaih have affected his reputation and even spoiled his image with the music director, Mr.Ilaiyaraja, who has inducted the plaintiff for his next film.

The plaintiff also pointed out that several tweets are being reproduced in the line of alleged defamatory statements made by Manimekalai which has stooped down his reputation. He also submitted that Manimekalai had given an interview in the news channel of journalist Dhanya Rajendran that contained statements detrimental to the image of Susi Ganesan.

The application filed by the plaintiff also refers to Manimekalai's actions as constituting a case of Vendetta,  naming Susi Ganesan as a sexual harasser a year after she revealed that she was a victim of sexual harassment in 2005 without naming anyone in particular.

Background

Leena Manimekalai, a renowned filmmaker, poet and artist, earlier approached the Madras High Court by way of a writ, challenging the decision of Regional Passport Officer, Chennai to impound her passport. In 2018, when the #MeToo Movement was in the fore, Leena came forward with sexual harassment allegations against Director Susi Ganesan. A criminal defamation case was pending against the filmmaker since 2019, filed by Susi Ganesan in the Chennai Magistrate Court.

In the petition before High Court, Manimekalai, through her Advocate, had submitted that the impounding order was passed by completely disregarding her reply to the show cause notice issued priorly. She also contended that the passport was renewed back in 2017, and since there wasn't any criminal proceedings against her at the time of renewal, it cannot be said that the renewal was completed by suppressing material facts.

Susi Ganesan was predetermined to harass her through the criminal defamation case, and the application filed before Saidapet Magistrate seeking directions to the concerned officer for impounding passport reveals his intentions, the petitioner stated. The plea was once closed by the Magistrate, which was challenged by Ganesan before High Court, but to no avail. The petitioner argued that it was only after this juncture that the Magistrate re-examined the earlier order upon a fresh petition by Susi Ganesan and directed the passport officer to impound, which in itself was an illegality.

Allowing the writ petition, Justice M. Dhandapani directed the Regional Passport Office to release the impounded passport within a period of one week from the receipt of the court's order in December. Later in December, the apex court refused to interfere with the High Court order on Susi Ganesan's appeal. The Supreme Court also directed the Chennai Magistrate Court to complete the trial in the criminal defamation case, filed by Ganesan against Manimekalai as expeditiously as possible, preferably within four months.

Case Title: Susi Ganesan v. Leena Manimekalai & Ors.

Case No: O.A. No.16 of 2022 in C.S. No.7 of 2022 

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