Subodh Gupta Files Rs 5-Crore Defamation Suit Against Anonymous Instagram Account

Gupta has told the court that he wants a “token” amount of Rs 5 crore as damages for having been named for sexual harassment.

New Delhi: Artist Subodh Gupta has filed a civil defamation case in the Delhi high court. He has sued an anonymous Instagram account that posted several allegations of sexual harassment against him.

The handle, HerdSceneAnd is still running and has made allegations against many of the biggest names in the Indian art world.

These allegations were first made at the height of India’s Me Too movement last October. Gupta is filing his defamation case several months later.

The Delhi high court has also directed Instagram to submit identification details of the people behind the handle HerdSceneAnd. They have been asked to do this in a sealed envelope and submit it to the court.

Gupta has told the court that he wants a “token” amount of Rs 5 crore as damages.

Technology and social media companies, Google and Instagram have also been made parties to the case.

Instagram and Facebook’s lawyers reportedly told the court that they would comply with revealing the identity of the people behind the Instagram handle. This has serious implications for free speech and privacy in India. The fundamental right to privacy was recently upheld by a nine judge bench of India’s Supreme Court.

Also read: For the Many and the Few: What a Fundamental Right to Privacy Means for India

Google has been directed to take down at least eighteen web links, many of which are media stories, about the allegations made against him. Some of the media stories were published in Economic Times, Business Standard, Scroll, FirstPost and art related websites like ArtForum, ArtNet.

Gupta was accused of fairly graphic but routine sexual harassment and abuse of power. Most of the accusations were of inappropriate and unwelcome touching.

When the allegations were first made last year, he stepped down as curator of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa. The festival also blackened his name from posters and set up an internal complaints committee. Festival authorities also issued a statement saying that they support the Me Too movement and “is committed to the safety of all in the workplace and the welfare of the extended Festival community and its participants.”

So far, none of the alleged victims of sexual harassment by Gupta have publicly come forward or initiated any legal proceedings against him that have been reported.

The Instagram handle, which has so far not been identified, has also been restrained by the Delhi high court from posting any more information which may relate to Gupta.

The handle HerdSceneAnd had put out many shocking allegations of sexual harassment in the Indian art world, including that of Riyaz Komu who stepped down from the Kochi Biennale, painter Jatin Das and Gaurav Bhatia from Sotheby’s who resigned as head of the India division.