Full disclosure: Mahesh Murthy owns 0.93 percent share in Newslaundry.
The Delhi High Court has vacated its 2017 interim order that restrained the publication of any allegations or complaints of sexual harassment made against venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy. A single-judge bench of Justice Jayanth Nath presided over the matter on Monday.
The accounts of alleged harassment by Murthy, "almost all during professional interactions", FactorDaily reports, dated from 2003 to 2016. Murthy had filed a defamation case naming 18 respondents, including individuals and media houses, seeking damages of Rs 2.5 crore.
While vacating the stay order against four victims, Justice Nath said that the four victims had "an unpleasant or perhaps more than unpleasant experience with the plaintiff. 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..."
According to Mumbai Mirror, Justice Nath also dismissed Murthy's conerns that two victims were "disgruntled" with "mala fide intentions" as he had refused to invest in their ventures.
The court added that Murthy's defamation suit was "a bit of a hotchpotch", and that "defendants have a right to exercise their right to freedom of speech". "In 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 court said.
It's important to note that sexual harassment is historically under-reported in the tech industry. The Indian startup ecosystem already suffers from an under-representation of women, so very few women do speak up. Read our detailed piece on the issue here.
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