Swatanter Kumar files defamation case against media, intern
Former Supreme Court judge and National Green Tribunal chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar Wednesday filed a defamation case in the Delhi High Court against media organisations and a law intern who have accused him of sexual harassment.
Mentioning the matter before Justice G.S. Sistani, a bunch of lawyers appearing for Justice Kumar also sought an order restraining media from reporting the case, except "fair reporting of court orders".
Justice Sistani marked to another judge the matter, which would come up for hearing at 2:30 p.m.
The NGT chairman sought damages of Rs.5 crore from media organisations and the intern.
On Jan 11, Justice Kumar sent a legal notice and warned that he would initiate both criminal and civil defamation suits if the media organisations -- Indian Express, Times Now and CNN-IBN -- failed to apologise within the deadline.
The plea sought direction for the central government to ensure that no media organisation -- whether print, electronic, or internet -- carries any report or articles relating to the law intern's complaint.
The defamation and damages suit was filed against the newspaper, its reporter, two news channels and the ministry of information and broadcasting.
"Pass a decree for permanent injunction restraining the defendant no.1 to 5 (the newspaper and news channels), its associates, sister concerns, representatives, correspondents... from carrying out any reports or articles or telecast any matter directly or indirectly pertaining to purported complaint of intern," the plea said.
The plea said Justice Kumar in the 43 years of his career has earned an impeccable reputation and is well known for his "unimpeachable integrity and high moral values" and has been held in high esteem by not only the bar and bench but the public at large.
The civil defamation suit said the media organisations named in the plea, without undertaking any verification of the allegations and without even inquiring into the authenticity of the alleged complaint, published the news item to defame him.
The plea said: "The reckless and irresponsible action of media organisations seeking to increase their circulation and TRPs (Television Rating Points) at the cost of the reputation of plaintiff (Kumar) and his public office have caused grave and irreparable injury to the reputation of the plaintiff and degraded the dignity of the institution of justice."
"The said acts lowered the esteem of the plaintiff in the estimation of the public at large and his colleagues, staff, peers, and members of his social circle," it said.
Justice Kumar said he is presently presiding as the chairman of NGT and has been fearlessly adjudicating matters listed before him, which necessarily involves the interest and stakes of corporate and industrial houses as also public interest.
"The judiciary has increasingly become a new source of conferring rights and a governance institutions to enforce accountability. There is, consequently, a concerted attempt by a tenacious group of entities and persons who want to attack the great institution of justice by making scurrilous attack on the judges (including former judges) and degrading the same in the public's estimation."
The former judge said the intern in question had hardly worked for three days in the judge's residential office in May 2011 and given the presence of two or three law clerks and office staff at all times in and around his residential office, it was impossible and imponderable that the alleged incident could take place.
(Posted on 15-01-2014)