#MeToo campaign cannot turn slanderous: High Court

'The #MeToo campaign also ought not to become an unbridled and unending campaign against an individual'

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has held that a #MeToo allegation against an individual ought not to be turned into an “unbridled and unending” campaign to sully him forever as the right to privacy includes rights to be forgotten and left alone.

The ruling came when the court was hearing the plea of a man seeking to stop publication and re-publication of articles written by a media house on the basis of harassment complaints received against him.

A disputed case

The high court had in December last year, in an interim order, directed the media house to take down the two articles and it had agreed to do so.

However, on 9 May, the man’s lawyers told the court that the said articles had been picked up by another digital platform, which was attributing the publications to the media house.

Taking note of the situation, Justice Prathiba M Singh said that once the media house, the original source, pulled down the articles on court orders, republication of the same “would not be permissible”.

“The allegations having been made as part of #MeToo campaign and the three individuals (complainants) having chosen to remain anonymous and the publisher (media house) of the articles having already agreed to pull down the said two articles, further re-publication of the same is liable to be restrained. The campaign also ought not to become an unbridled and unending campaign against an individual with other electronic/digital portals or platforms picking up the pulled down content through archived material,” the court said.

It further said,”#MeToo campaign cannot become a ‘Sullying #UToo’ campaign forever. If re-publication is permitted to go on continuously, the plaintiff’s rights would be severely jeopardised.”

“Accordingly, recognising the plaintiff’s right to privacy, of which the ‘right to be forgotten’ and the ‘right to be left alone’ are inherent aspects, it is directed that any republication of the content of the originally impugned articles dated 12 October 2018 and 31 October 2018, or any extracts or excerpts thereof, as also modified versions thereof, on any print or digital or electronic platform shall stand restrained during the pendency of the present suit,” it said.

Pushing someone to death

The man, who claims to be the managing director of a well-known media house, had said in his suit that due to the publication of the stories, “he underwent enormous torture and personal grief due to the baseless allegations made against him”. He has also said that the one-sided accounts in the articles “tarnished his reputation”.

The plea further said that his personal and professional life “have been hampered irreparably” and further damage was likely to be caused if appropriate relief is not granted against the republication of these two articles.

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