Apart from a defamation case filed by Susi Ganesan against Leena, she has also been facing hurdles with travel, as Susi Ganesan filed petitions to impound her passport and travel documents.

Leena Manimekalai and Susi GanesanPhotos via Facebook
news #MeToo Friday, September 10, 2021 - 14:04

Since 2018, when filmmaker Leena Manimekalai came out with her Me Too story, accusing Kollywood director of sexual harassment, she has had to pay a heavy price for speaking her truth. Apart from a defamation case filed by Susi Ganesan against Leena, she has also been facing hurdles with travel, as Ganesan earlier filed a petition to impound her passport, and recently, her travel documents. And though a previous petition to impound her passport was not entertained earlier by the court, Ganesan again moved court to reopen it about a week ago. And on Thursday, September 9, Leena received an email from the Passport Authority that her passport has been impounded.

“In the absence of any response from you, your file has been impounded […],” said the email, of which TNM has seen a copy, said. However, Leena’s counsel, VS Senthil Kumar, said that it is factually incorrect to say that she did not respond. In fact, when the Chennai Regional Passport Office had sent her a show cause notice on February 8, 2021, even though Ganesan’s petition to impound her passport then had been disposed of by the Saidapet Metropolitan Magistrate in November 2020, Leena did respond to the notice. “We replied on March 15, 2021, saying this is a matter pertaining to a private complaint, it is not pertaining to a police case. But we did not get another response from the Passport Office. Leena even filed an RTI to know what happened to her reply to the show cause notice, but we haven’t gotten a response for that either,” VS Senthil Kumar told TNM.

In a reply to the same matter to passport authorities, on August 24, 2021, Leena also asked as the basis of the “adverse police verification” that the authorities were saying was the reason to move to impound her passport. “I am not aware on what basis the police have provided an adverse police verification report and if the exact details are provided, I will be in a much better position to give a suitable reply for the same,” she wrote in the communication. Later, on September 3, she also met the passport officer in person, gave an explanation, and submitted required hard copies again. She was given a verbal assurance that the authorities will close the impounding proceedings. However, despite these measures and communication, on September 9, Leena received an email saying her passport is being impounded due to “absence of response”.

Ganesan recently moved court again to restrict Leena’s travel, on September 6, 2021, asking the court to impound her travel documents. And now, even as Leena awaits a copy the magistrate’s order from the day, the Passport Office has said it will impound her passport.

On the September 6, the Saidapet Magistrate Court heard Susi Ganesan’s petition to restrict Leena Manimekalai’s travel abroad on the grounds that she has a criminal defamation case pending against her. In November, when Ganesan’s petition to the same effect was disposed of, Leena had given an undertaking that she would inform the court if she was travelling abroad. 

Since Leena intends to travel to Canada to pursue her higher education now, the Magistrate has allowed the petition to be reopened. Leena is pursuing an MFA course from York University in Canada, which is an academic award on full scholarship. Recently, she had also received an invitation for a screening and lecture on her film, Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale, from St John Fisher College in New York, USA.

Ganesan has claimed that Leena will attempt to flee the country. However, Leena’s counsel submitted in writing her intention to travel to Canada along with supporting documents from her university. Leena had also told TNM earlier that she only has a student visa. In court, on September 6, Leena’s counsel argued that she need not seek permission to travel but only intimate the court, which she has duly done. And that right to travel is a fundamental right, and her lawyers will conduct the case in her absence, he said.

However, Susi Ganesan’s counsel argued that Leena has been delaying the case and is now attempting to flee the country. In order for justice to be done for the complainant, Susi Ganesan, his counsel requested the court to either remand Leena to judicial custody or impound her travel documents, including her tickets, and recommend the passport office to investigate its validity. 

Incidentally, because of the onslaught of additional petitions filed by Ganesan restrict Leena’s travel, the defamation case has not moved forward. And Leena is not the only one who accused Ganesan of sexual harassment – actor Amala Paul had shared her experience publicly too, and extended support to Leena as well.

“My studies and film screenings are my livelihood. I am unable to pursue that because he is slapping case after case without actually allowing proceedings to go forward in the defamation case,” Leena had told TNM earlier. “Speaking up against sexual harassment doesn’t make me a criminal. I hope the Indian courts will protect my basic right to livelihood.”

Read: Amala Paul says Susi Ganesan misbehaved with her too, supports Leena Manimekalai

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