Pachauri suit: HC asks trial court to record evidence from Aug

15 Jul 2017

The Delhi High Court has asked a trial court-appointed local commissioner to start recording evidence of former TERI chief R K Pachauri in a suit seeking to restrain media houses from reporting his court cases and seeking damages of Rs one crore from lawyer activist Vrinda Grover and another woman for allegedly defaming him. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw passed the order on a plea by Grover and the alleged victim challenging the district court's July 7 order directing cross-examination of Pachauri and other witnesses in the suit between July 13 and 26. The high court by its July 12 order has modified the trial court's July 7 decision and said that with the consent of all the parties, the recording of cross-examination of the former Teri chief and his witnesses shall commence before the court commissioner from August 1 and end by September 30. The schedule of dates and time for recording evidence would be decided by the court commissioner, the high court has said while disposing of the petitions moved by the activist lawyer and the alleged victim. Senior advocate Rebecca John had told the high court that Grover and the woman have challenged a lower court's decision as it was "unreasonable" to fix recording of evidence between July 13 and 26 when Pachauri had not filed his evidence by way of affidavits till July 7. Rebecca said that the court, during the proceedings, observed why Grover has been impleaded in the suit as her communications with her client (the victim) were privileged. Pachauri's counsel Ashish Dixit on the other hand had contended that by the order of July 7 (of a trial court) the affidavit by way of examination-in-chief was directed to be furnished "very soon" and not by July 7. In her petition, she had also claimed that Pachauri had not complied with the high court's June 16 direction to file his evidence by way of affidavits by July 7 and these were provided to her and the victim only on July 11 and July 12, respectively. This claim, made on behalf of the activist lawyer and the alleged victim, has been noted by the high court in its July 12 order. The high court in its June 16 order had listed the case before Additional District Judge on July 7 for rescheduling dates of recording of evidence and for Pachauri to file his evidence by way of affidavit. The June 16 order had come on Grover's plea challenging the trial court's decision to fix recording of evidence during the summer vacation. While setting aside the earlier trial court order, the high court had also said that lawyers cannot be forced to work during the vacations. Grover in her petition had said that the trial court had failed to appreciate the fact that reasonable time to prepare for the cross-examination of the witnesses, has to be given to all parties including the petitioner (the counsel). In April 2016, few months after the charge sheet against him was filed in the alleged sexual harassment case lodged by an ex-colleague, Pachauri slapped a civil suit against Grover and the other woman for allegedly making defamatory statements against him before the media .The other woman had also made similar accusations against him but after filing of the original complaint. Pachauri has sought damages of Rs 1 crore for "false and frivolous allegations" which, he argues, could prejudice his case. He has also made three media houses, as well as the information and broadcasting ministry, parties to the suit filed before a Patiala House court here and has sought a permanent injunction against any reporting on statements of the two women. On February 26, Pachauri had secured an order from a Saket court here making it mandatory that the media houses have to publish or telecast the coverage of the case with a title that "in any court the allegations have not been proved and they may not be correct". The interim order had further said, "When such information is published in any page of a magazine or report then it should be in middle of the page in bold letters and it should be five times larger than the font in which the article is being published.(PTI)