The Delhi High Court Wednesday expressed displeasure over a plea moved for recalling its order directing all persons involved in an alleged sexual harassment case to refrain from commenting on the issue on the social media or any other platform.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao was irked over the application filed by a woman who had accused her former employers of sexual harassment, saying through its earlier order, it had acted with the intention of protecting both sides but now, "we feel we are the accused".
"This is really embarrassing for us. It is frustrating. If you do not like it, then withdraw your plea and fight it out in the media. We did not want a parallel trial to go on between the parties in the media.
"We do not like that when a matter is before us, the parties are fighting it outside the court also," the bench said, adding, "Dr B R Ambedkar would have never thought that a high court under Article 226 of the Constitution would be hearing such issues."
Article 226 gives the discretion to the high courts to issue directions, orders or writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari to any person or authority, whether a fundamental right is involved or not.
The court's remarks came after senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the woman, said while she was "gagged" from talking about "her ordeal", the other side had "flooded the media with scurrilous attacks against her".
Gonsalves said his client wanted her "liberty to speak about the issue and show solidarity with others who have suffered sexual harassment at the workplace".
Apart from the high court's October 11 direction to both sides to refrain from making comments on the issue on the social media, the woman has also sought the recalling of a November 2017 order not to disclose the identities of the persons involved in the matter.
Gonsalves contended that the woman's former employers had revealed the identity of all involved as well as her complaint in several news articles, in which they had also allegedly described her as a "poor and disgruntled employee".
Senior advocate Kirti Uppal, appearing for the employers, said it was the woman who had started disclosing the identities.
The application was moved by the woman in her main petition challenging an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) decision rejecting her complaint of sexual harassment.
After briefly hearing both the sides, the bench said it would hear the matter on November 15 with regard to the rejection of her complaint by the ICC and decide the petition on merits.
The October 11 order of the high court had come after the employers -- founders of a news portal -- contended that the woman was disclosing the identities of those involved in the matter during the #MeToo movement on the social media, despite a high court order to the contrary.
The woman, a journalist, had alleged that she was sexually harassed while working with the news portal.
(With inputs from agencies.)