High court dismisses Delhi BJP candidate SC Vats’s application to hide news of rape accusation

06 February 2020
In her complaint, the assistant professor noted that Vats began to threaten her when she refused his advances.
In her complaint, the assistant professor noted that Vats began to threaten her when she refused his advances.

On 31 January, Suresh Chand Vats, a Bharatiya Janata Party politician, filed an application in the Delhi High Court seeking an injunction against a Hindustan Times article published in February 2015. The article stated that Vats had been booked for rape and sexual assault. Vats is contesting the upcoming Delhi assembly elections from the Shakur Basti constituency in north Delhi. The BJP leader argued before the high court that he had been discharged of the offence of rape, and therefore, the news report was “ex facie defamatory.” The court heard and dismissed the application on the same day.

In 2015, Vats lost the assembly elections to Satyendar Jain of the Aam Aadmi Party. On 8 February this year, he goes up against Jain again.

Vats is also the founder and chairperson of an educational institute called the Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. In February 2015, on the basis of a complaint filed by an assistant professor at the institute, the Delhi police registered a case against Vats for rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, assault with intent to disrobe, stalking and criminal intimidation. In her complaint, the assistant professor said that the sexual assault took place in October 2013. The case was registered at the Maurya Enclave police station in north west Delhi.

In January 2018, a Delhi sessions court discharged Vats of the offence of rape under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. He continues to face proceedings against the other charges. This year, Vats argued before the high court that the continuing presence of the news report, which notes that he was booked for rape, could adversely affect his chances in the Delhi elections. Accordingly, he asked the court for an ex-parte order—an order passed without hearing the opposing parties—seeking directions to the Hindustan Times to remove the report from their website and to Google to remove other articles Vats listed in his petition.

“I am unable to agree,” the Delhi High Court judge Rajeev Sahai Endlaw wrote in the order dismissing the application. “It is up to the plaintiff to inform its electorate that he has been discharged of the offence under Section 376 IPC. Else, it is the settled law that the electorate should have all available information relating to the candidate seeking their franchise.” Endlaw noted that “interference by the Court in the manner sought, would run counter thereto and deprive the electorate of a fair chance to decide on the candidate from their constituency whom they want to elect.”

Arshu John is an assistant web editor at The Caravan. He was previously an advocate practicing criminal law in Delhi.

Keywords: Delhi Elections 2020 Bharatiya Janata Party rape Sexual Assault sexual harassment
COMMENT