Do #metoo accused have a legal remedy?

Equally, he runs the risk of a cascading effect, from many a platform, on his fundamental right to carry on his profession.

#MeToo is all over the place. Several wickets have fallen in its wake and many more may be on the anvil. Without taking sides, a tough ask in the times we live in, as boulders may come falling, whichever view one may embrace, let’s get real with the legal options to those wickets which may have been uprooted, possibly even by a no-ball. Do they have any?

Based on the survivor’s version, candidates may lose their positions, commercial deals or platform opportunities as artistes. That may be one consequence and it would impact on their ability to make a living. The other and more important issue of consequence would be the infamy that comes calling. They are brought down in the eyes of the public, by a notch or more, and lose their standing amongst even the friends and relatives.

No matter how hard they refute the allegations, the perception battle would seem to be tripping them. The survivor trumps them all. Why would the survivor pick on you? They have a lot to lose as it directly exposes them to hurt where it matters most. What is it they stand to gain at this point of time except as a cathartic moment to purge themselves of the trauma that has been bottled up all these years? And psychologically, it is a given that holding back is a natural and logical choice, given their place in society, until the #MeToo moment may have breached it all. So runs the refrain.

But what of the felled wickets, if the delivery was a foul, a No-ball. The victim is declared out, without chance for a review system before a third umpire. He loses a lot. Can he legally sue? For instance, if a performer loses out on a platform opportunity, it affects his living. Equally, he runs the risk of a cascading effect, from many a platform, on his fundamental right to carry on his profession. Of course, there is the unavoidable element of possibly being defamed.

Can a performer sue the organiser for denying him a prefixed platform concert? For specific performance of the contracted event. No, he cannot. Law does not enable such a remedy. Even if the performer may have arranged his affairs in such a way, trusting the contract, and there was an element of promissory estoppel, the performer cannot sue for specific performance. The withdrawn chance to perform stands withdrawn for good, with no scope for reversal.

The only available alternative may be to sue for damages. There is economic loss, no doubt. But no performer would dare embark on such a relief, if properly advised, considering the illusory nature of the academically available relief. On the other hand, it exposes the accused to continued spotlight, which he would desperately seek to avoid. Just imagine the deposition of such a witness, in a court of law. Juicy bits could be sucked out, which no litigant would be eager to face. The performer may have to stand far stricter scrutiny before a cour of law than the perfunctory examination in the bar of public opinion.

The obvious result is that any accused worth his salt would love to escape ignominy by diving into oblivion in a trace. Hoping against hope that public memory was short and ‘this too shall pass’, only truism of irrefutable precept and practice.

(Author is practising advocate in the Madras high court)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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