#MeToo: HC allows Insta handle to maintain interim anonymity

New Delhi, Nov 18 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Monday permitted Instagram handle - Herdsceneand - to file in a sealed cover its response to artist Subodh Gupta's plea seeking removal of the allegedly defamatory content made against him on social media.

The court also allowed the Instagram account handle to file in a sealed cover its 'vakalatnama' (document empowering a lawyer to act for and on behalf of his client) to maintain its interim anonymity and furnish a redacted copy of its response to Gupta.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw asked the anonymous account holder to file within two weeks its response to Gupta's suit in which he has also sought Rs five crore for damage caused to him and his family due to the alleged defamatory posts.

The court had earlier directed social media giants Google, Facebook and Instagram to remove the anonymous posts containing sexual harassment accusations against him that emerged during last year's #MeToo movement.

Advocate Abhik Chimni, representing the anonymous Instagram account holder, said his client was maintaining the handle, reports incidents on that account and was seeking anonymity as part of his right and irreparable loss would be caused to him if his identity is disclosed at this stage.

The court questioned his stand saying: 'How can you hide behind an electronic identity. How can they (plaintiff) be allowed to fight against a ghost... I don't understand the concept of shadow boxing here'.

The counsel said he was not hiding and if the identity of the account holder is revealed at this stage, it will lead to retaliation against him.

When the counsel was justifying his right to maintain anonymity at this stage, the court said: 'On one side you reveal the other person's identity but you do not want to reveal your identity'.

The high court also asked Gupta to file replies to the impleadment applications filed by Culture Workers Trust and Indian Journalists Union.

It listed the matter for further hearing on January 22, next year.

Gupta has filed the defamation suit against Instagram handle - Herdsceneand - and others, seeking Rs five crore for damage caused to him and his family due to the alleged defamatory posts.

The high court had earlier restrained Herdsceneand from posting any content relating to Gupta on its account.

It had also directed 'Herdsceneand', Instagram LLC, Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Google India Pvt. Ltd. to 'forthwith remove/ take down the defamatory posts/ articles/ all content pertaining to Gupta and block certain URLs/ web links'.

It had also directed Facebook Inc., which controls Instagram LLC, to furnish before the court in a sealed envelope the particulars of the person/ entity behind the Instagram Account 'Herdsceneand'. PTI SKV HMP SKV RDMRDM