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

In her complaint, the assistant professor noted that Vats began to threaten her when she refused his advances.
Elections 2024
06 February, 2020

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.”

The particulars of Vats’s discharge from the offence of rape are important. The assistant professor’s initial police complaint and statements are not available in the public domain. However, the sessions court judgment discharging Vats describes the incident relying upon her complaint and statements to the police and magistrate.

The assistant professor joined VIPS in July 2013. In her police complaint, as recounted in the judgment, she stated that on 18 October, she was wearing a sari, when Vats saw her and remarked in front of several staff members, “Tum toh ras malai lag rahi ho”—You are looking like a ras malai. She noted that Vats then called her into his cabin. According to the assistant professor, Vats held her and forcibly kissed and groped her. She wrote in her police complaint: “He also forcefully inserted his finger inside my private parts, and when I agitated, he threatened me that he will insert other objects inside me. While pressing my breast, he said to me that my breasts are very hard and it can develop breast cancer, so I should frequently get them pressed by him, as he is doctor and he has knowledge about it. He also forced me to hold his penis. I was crying very loudly, so he threatened me that he will call guards and get me beaten up brutally.”

In the following months, the assistant professor noted in the complaint, Vats began to threaten her as she refused his subsequent advances. She said he threatened to take his own life and leave a letter blaming her for it, and also alluded to reducing her workload and increasing her salary. In January 2014, she said, after she had rejected multiple such advances, Vats fired her. She noted that she was unable to find another job. Vats then asked her to come back and apologised for his previous conduct. Further, another colleague assured her that it would be alright to return. Relying on these assurances, the woman rejoined VIPS. But Vats soon resumed his advances, she said, ultimately leading to him terminating her services once again in May 2014. She added that he threatened to have acid thrown on her face if she were to raise her voice about his conduct. In the following February, she registered her complaint with the Maurya Enclave police station.

In the sessions court, Vats argued that the assistant professor had given conflicting versions of the incident in her multiple statements to the police, and her statement to the magistrate under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Most importantly, Vats said, the woman had not accused him of inserting his finger into her vagina in multiple statements, including the one before the magistrate, and therefore, the alleged incident did not constitute the offence of rape. He stated before the court that the woman had filed her police complaint—in which she stated that he inserted his finger—under the guidance of a lawyer, who would know the necessary elements to constitute rape, whereas other statements did not specify that he did so.

The judge, Shailender Malik, agreed with the argument. “In present case, it is admitted case even on behalf of prosecution that allegation of ‘fingering’ as mentioned in written complaint, were not stated by prosecutrix, when her statement u/s.164 Cr.P.C. was recorded,” he wrote. “This fact to my mind, assume importance. It is not made clear as to why such important fact, which itself constitute an offence, was not stated by prosecutrix.” In her statement to the magistrate, the assistant professor had said:

I was working as Assit. Professor in Vivekanand College. I live alone and this fact was known to Chairman of my college Mr. Suresh Chand Vats. He used to frequently misbehaved with me. He used to ask me to come to his house. He used to say that he wants to make physical relation with me for 1 – 3 time only, he has no interest than that. When I denied for it, he threatened me that he will get acid thrown on my face, then whole arrogance will go away or will get you killed by a truck, if you did not follow. He used to touch at wrong place and used to forcibly hug me. He used to click my photographs on many occasions. I used to be trapped. I stopped going for my job. He used to tell me health benefits of sex. He forced me to watch porn movie in mobile phone. He threatened me repeatedly that I would not require to be cremated as no one is with me. I am scared even after leaving the job because he is very influential. It is better to die fighting instead of dying like this. He sent me SMS also. I do not want to say anything else.

Malik noted that the police recorded the woman’s statement on seven occasions, apart from her statement to the magistrate. In her second statement to the police, on 26 February, she stated, “… accused tried to remove my clothes. I got disbalanced and fell on the table. In that process, finger of S.C. Vats touched my private part, touched my penty, but I gave him a push. Therefore, he could not insert …” During her third statement, on 26 March, the police officer asked her specifically if Vats had inserted his finger. She responded, “He did but I fought back. It was very short period. Things happened in fraction of seconds.”

Vats was discharged of rape on 18 January 2018. In his order, Malik noted that the woman had admitted that a lawyer had drafted her complaint. He wrote, “if all the statements of prosecutrix recorded during the investigation, are read in continuity, one can easily conclude that these statements do not indicate commission of offence of rape.” Pertinently, the discharge order does not at any point indicate that Vats had denied the allegations, nor does it absolve him of the several other charges against him, including that of sexual assault.

It is on the strength of this discharge order that Vats approached the Delhi High Court seeking an injunction against the Hindustan Times and Google from allowing access to articles that refer to the rape accusation. In dismissing his application for an ex-parte injunction, Endlaw wrote, “The plaintiff, even though discharged of the offence under Section 376 IPC, cannot seek to obliterate from the internet the information to the said extent.” He added that Vats continued to face criminal proceedings for the other offences, which “are allied to the offence of rape.” Endlaw observed that “the impact of other offences of which plaintiff is still accused on the public is likely to be the same as of offence of which plaintiff is discharged. Thus, no case is made out for grant of ex parte order.” The criminal case against Vats for the other offences is listed for hearing on 14 February.