#MeToo: Google moves Delhi HC in Subodh Gupta case, says order will have chilling effect on freedom of speech

  • Google has moved the Delhi High Court to vacate the order on take down posts against artist Subodh Gupta

  • The High Court order was in response to the defamation suit filed by Gupta

  • The Delhi High Court will now hear the case on 18 November

Following the Delhi High Court order to take down anonymous posts containing #MeToo allegations against artist Subodh Gupta, Google has moved the court on Monday to vacate the order, saying it will have a “chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression and be against public interest,” according to an Indian Express report.

The High Court order was in response to the defamation suit filed by Gupta against the Instagram account @herdsceneand and others for publishing allegedly false content against him. He is also seeking Rs 5 crore for damage caused to himself and his family due to the posts. It was heard on 18 September by Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, and the court instructed all news websites and publications which reported on the #MeToo allegations to “remove/take down the defamatory posts/articles/all content pertaining to the plaintiff [Gupta] and block the URLs and weblinks.”

 #MeToo: Google moves Delhi HC in Subodh Gupta case, says order will have chilling effect on freedom of speech

Subodh Gupta. REUTERS

Google urged the court to modify this order. According to the Indian Express report, the company seeks modification, saying that information in question is already available on independent third party websites that are beyond the company's control and supervision. It went on to say that proceedings have been initiated with a view to put an "unreasonable restraint on the freedom of speech and expression on the internet as well as the freedom of the press".

Gupta’s defamation suit was earlier condemned through statements issued by JNU students. Nearly 40 artists and art collectives condemned the Delhi High Court's ruling. In an open letter, the signatories said that the court's injunction “is exactly what survivors have feared when choosing anonymity. This is an attempt to dissuade others from sharing further experiences of harassment and violence, and to perpetuate a culture of fear.” The 38 signatories of the letter include prominent artists and activists such as Kadak Collective, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Munem Wasif, Sandhya Menon, Akansha Rastogi, and Fiza Khatri.

Last week, the artist association Khoj also released a statement reiterating that the decision to ask Gupta to step down was "categorical and unanimous", after an email written by Pooja Sood, the director of artists association, was made public by the @MeTooIndia handle on Twitter. Sood's email to Gupta had stated "all the board members" were with him. Sood also worried about upsetting the association's funders — the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation — who have “very stringent guidelines for a safe space policy”.

The Delhi High Court will now hear the case on 18 November.

Updated Date: Oct 15, 2019 10:51:58 IST