Defendants have the right to free speech said the Delhi High Court in the case of MeToo allegations against venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy. The High Court vacated the gag order against publications reporting against Murthy, the founder of Pinstorm and partner at Seedfund. The order was passed by Justice Jayant Nath in a suit for defamation filed by Murthy. SheThePeople was a defendant in this case.

This is an important order in the light of the many #MeToo survivors in the country who have been forced to stay silent for fear of court cases, defamation lawsuits and more. Murthy had claimed that the publications had circulated ‘sensational’ material against him, as part of his defamation suit.

SheThePeople has a copy of the order PDF which says, ” The facts show that as per defendants No.1, 2, 15 and 16, they have had an unpleasant or perhaps more than unpleasant experience with the plaintiff. These facts, the said defendants and other defendants seek to place in public domain. Prima facie, it cannot be said that the said defendants have no case whatsoever or are misusing the freedom of speech to tarnish/defame the plaintiff.”

Murthy had sought injunction against SheThePeople and 17 other publications and individuals like Pankaj Mishra, Yourstory etc. The order further added, “The said defendants have a right to exercise their right of freedom of speech. 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 plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case. In my opinion, balance of convenience is also not in favour of the plaintiff.”

This order is important on two specific counts: One, in the context of Metoo and the defamation sought by people who are allegedly involved. And second, the court upheld the right of defendants to freedom of speech. One hopes these cases will become a pointer for future ones.

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