Written by Sailee Dhayalkar & Rachel Mucha
The woman who has accused director Vikas Bahl of sexual harassment told the court on Thursday that she was filing an affidavit to put on oath that she stands by her statement to a portal stating that she was “sexually assaulted” by Bahl.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Bahl seeking Rs 10 crore in damages from his former partners in Phantom Films, directors Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, and three media organisations for alleged defamation. Bahl also sought interim relief restraining them and others, including two media houses, from posting, publishing and republishing the allegedly defamatory articles against him.
The woman submitted the affidavit to the court through senior counsel Navroz Seervai and lawyer Neha Mehta. Seervai told the court that after the hearing on Tuesday and after reading the newspapers, the client overcame her reluctance to submit the affidavit because having already been subjected to sexual harassment, she felt as if “it would add insult to injury if her credibility and her words were to be disregarded”.
The affidavit said: “While I was reluctant to file an affidavit in the present proceedings for reasons already mentioned, I have since been informed by my lawyers about what transpired at the hearing on 23rd October 2018 and I have also read various newspaper articles that covered the hearing. I am led to understand that the credibility of my statements as recorded in the Huffington Post India have been questioned by the plaintiff because my statement is not on oath and no affidavit has been filed in support thereof.”
The affidavit further said: “In view of this, I am filing the present affidavit to put my oath to the statement as handed over to this Hon’ble Court on 23rd October and confirm that everything stated therein is true and correct.”
Justice S J Kathawalla asked Bahl, Kashyap and Motwane to submit their affidavits by November 21 and told Seervai that the woman, after reading all the affidavits, can inform the court if any content in the affidavits filed by all the parties are incorrect. The court said: “If she feels, she wants to deal with some points she is not precluded from filing further affidavit.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Madhu Mantena, one of the partners of Phantom Films denied that he was present at a meeting on March 9, 2017, where, according to Kashyap, Bahl sought forgiveness for his behavior.
In an affidavit submitted on Thursday through senior lawyers Aspi Chinoy and Vineet Naik, along with lawyer Sameer Tapia of ALMT Legal, Mantena confirmed his presence on March 9 at a meeting with Kayshap and Bahl, and corroborated Kashyap’s claim that Bahl “agreed to seek assistance in dealing with his general behavior and to undergo treatment” for alcohol abuse, on that date. But Mantena denied that Bahl “apologised for his misconduct” against the woman at the meeting.
Mantena further noted in his affidavit that Bahl had denied any memory of the incident in question on March 9.