12 July 2023 7:22 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court has refused to injunct further telecast of the movie “Nyay: The Justice” based on late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s life which was released on OTT platform Lapalap in June 2021. Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the application seeking interlocutory injunction moved by the late actor’s father in his suit against the producers and director of the film....
The Delhi High Court has refused to injunct further telecast of the movie “Nyay: The Justice” based on late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s life which was released on OTT platform Lapalap in June 2021.
Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the application seeking interlocutory injunction moved by the late actor’s father in his suit against the producers and director of the film. He alleged that the movie was made without taking the permission of legal representatives of Sushant Singh Rajput.
Observing that the publicity and privacy rights are not heritable and died with death of the late actor, Justice C Hari Shankar observed:
“….the impugned movie, being based on information in the public domain, which, at the time of its original dissemination, was never challenged or questioned, cannot be sought to be injuncted at this distance of time, especially when it has already been released on the Lapalap platform a while ago and must have been seen, by now, by thousands. The movie cannot be said to be infracting Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. Injuncting further dissemination of the movie would, therefore, infract the defendants‘ rights under Article 19(1)(a).”
The court observed that even assuming that the film infracts the publicity rights of Sushant Singh Rajput or defames him, the “infracted right is personal” to the late actor and cannot be said to have been inherited by his father.
“The reliefs sought in the plaint are entirely with respect to SSR. The rights that the prayers in the suit seek to protect and the rights of privacy, publicity and personality which vested in SSR. No relief, qua any right which vests in the plaintiff, finds place in the plaint. The rights ventilated in the plaint – i.e., the right to privacy, the right to publicity and the personality rights which vested in SSR, are not heritable. They died with the death of SSR. The said rights, therefore, did not survive for espousal by the plaintiff,” the court said.
Justice Shankar however said that the right of Rajput’s father to maintain and prosecute the suit, insofar as it claims damages from the producers and director of the film, would stand preserved.
“The contention of Mr. Singh (the plaintiff’s lawyer) that permitting telecasting of the film would prejudice the right to fair, free and dispassionate trial of the circumstances surrounding SSR‘s death, has merely to be stated to merit rejection. Our legal system is, fortunately, not so fickle as to justify any apprehension that the dispensers of justice, who constitute its ethos and backbone, would decide on the basis of the facts depicted in the impugned movie. I need say no more,” the court observed.
Justice Shankar further said that the law cannot allow itself to be a “vehicle to promote celebrity culture” and that the rights which emanate from one‘s personality would be available to one and all, and not only to celebrities.
“Rights which enure because of the special personal achievements of individuals are, of course, to be sedulously protected, and deserve recognition. That is altogether different from conferring, on an individual, additional rights merely because he, or she, is a “celebrity”. Celebrities, oftentimes, spring into being overnight, and vanish from the public eye just as quickly. Who can forget Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, the child actors who played the young lead performers in the celebrated Slumdog Millionaire who, after an evening of glory, were found to have returned to the Mumbai slums, enmeshed in a spate of controversies? To fasten a legal right on something as fleeting as celebrity status, to my mind, appears an oxymoron," the court added.
Having seen the movie in question, the court observed that it was clear that the characters “Mahendra Singh, Urvashi and Keshav Singh” of the film are merely aliases for “Sushant Singh Rajput, Rhea Chakraborty and Rajput’s father.”
“It has to be stated, here, with some regret, that the stand, adopted by the defendants, of the impugned movie being a generalised version of struggling actors in the Bollywood industry, and having merely taken inspiration from news items, is ex facie misleading. The story of the film is practically a day by day story of the life of SSR, as was made known through articles in the press and in magazines. Hardly any independent inventive input has gone into the movie,” the court said.
It added that the disclaimer inserted in the movie cannot detract from the reality that the movie is a “celluloid retelling” of the life and death of the late actor.
Title: KRISHNA KISHORE SINGH v. SARLA A SARAOGI & ORS.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 584
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