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Delhi HC asks Instagram, Google to take down #MeToo posts against artist Subodh Gupta

Court order came on 18 September in response to Gupta's injunction suit against an anonymous Instagram account that accused him of sexual harassment.

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New Delhi: Nearly a year after artist Subodh Gupta was accused of sexual harassment by an anonymous account on Instagram, the Delhi High Court has directed Facebook — which owns Instagram — and Google to take down all posts pertaining to such accusations against him.

The court order came on 18 September in response to an injunction suit filed by Gupta against the Instagram account as well as Facebook and Google in which he claimed to have been defamed by such posts.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw has directed Instagram to furnish details of the person behind the anonymous account @herdsceneand, in a “sealed cover”.

“The defendant no.2 Instagram LCC is also directed to, on the next date of hearing, furnish to this Court in a sealed envelope, the particulars of the person/entity behind the Instagram account ‘Herdsceneand’,” the order stated.

Also read: #MeToo movement shook Bollywood status quo, hasn’t fizzled out yet: Tisca Chopra

Gupta claimed Rs 5 crore in damages

Gupta has demanded damages to the tune of Rs 5 crore for causing harm to his reputation, claiming that art galleries are refusing to display his work because of the allegations.

In December 2018, the anonymous Instagram account had accused Gupta of making sexual advances to different women, who were allegedly Gupta’s co-workers.

Gupta had denied all the charges, but in the wake of the allegations stepped down from his position as a guest curator of Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa.

A statement from the festival had said, “He has decided to step back and will not be present at the festival, so as not to detract from the collaborative efforts of over 90 projects at the Serendipity Arts Festival this year. Serendipity Arts Foundation supports the #metoo movement and is committed to the safety of all in the workplace and the welfare of the extended Festival community and its participants”.

‘Allegations can’t be permitted to be made in public domain’

During the hearing on 18 September, the HC asked Gupta’s lawyer if any of the alleged victims had been named in the post. It also asked whether any of the women initiated legal or other proceedings against him. The court was informed that none of these happened.

Justice Endlaw then opined that Gupta did have a prima facie case and observed, “Prima facie, it appears that the allegations as made in the allegedly defamatory contents, cannot be permitted to be made in public domain/published without being backed by legal recourse. The same if permitted, is capable of mischief.”

The court then passed an ex parte ad interim injunction, barring the anonymous account from posting anything related to Gupta for the time being. 

Additionally, the court asked Instagram, Facebook and Google to block a list of 18 URLs mentioned by Gupta in his injunction plea and take down all defamatory content against him.

A lawyer conversant with the case told ThePrint that subsequently, on 30 September, Facebook Ireland, one of the defendants, appeared before the high court and informed the judge that it would submit details of Facebook Inc. USA so that notice can be issued to it.

The matter will next be taken up on 18 November.

Also read: Unnao rape survivor’s case shows rural India needs a MeToo


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