Delhi High Court has refused to grant an injunction against Netflix from streaming Vir Das starrer web series called Hasmukh.
While holding that there's no prima facie case in favour of even interim injunction, the Single Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva noted that the Plaintiff could not show that the disputed dialogue in any manner refers to him or refers to a definite group of individuals or lawyers out of the entire class of lawyers to which he belongs.
Moreover, the Bench further noted, the Plaintiff could not show irreparable loss or damage which could warrant passing of interim injunction.
The Plaintiff has sought an injunction against Netflix from streaming web series called 'Hasmukh'. According to the Plaintiff, episode 4 of the season 1 of the show carries remarks which are derogatory to the entire legal fraternity.
The Plaintiff was aggrieved by the following remarks:
'This is the first city I have seen where even the thieves are rich. But out here, they're called lawyers. Your lawyers are the biggest scoundrels and thieves. These so-called upholders of law will never be brought to justice because they rape you with their pen. People say the law is blind. But I say the law is dirty because every lawyer carries a little stick in his hand.'
Plaintiff had contended that the dialogue is highly disparaging, defamatory and bring disrepute to the legal profession and lawyers in the eyes of general public and are a constant stigma on the image of lawyers and a constant source of annoyance to the plaintiff and have lowered the image of lawyers and the Plaintiff amongst the public at large.
Respondents, on the other hand, argued that has failed to show any prima facie case and has not been able to even show any personal injury or violation of any right entitling him to grant of any injunction.
It was further argued by the Respondents that cannot be defamed as a "class of persons", nor can the Plaintiff be defamed by a general reference to
Lawyers. Moreover, a class of persons cannot be defamed as a class, nor can an individual be defamed by general reference to a class to which the individual belongs.
'It is contended that where there is a statement describing a very wide class of individuals such as the reference made to lawyers, without identifying individual members, it cannot be said that lawyers have been defamed as a class or that individual members such as the Plaintiff have been defamed for belonging to the class of lawyer', the Respondents argued.
The Respondents further submitted that the said web series is a work of fiction, the story thereof and statements made by the characters including the impugned content is only meant to be taken in the context of a figment of imagination and humour and not as a matter of truth.
While perusing the submissions, the court noted that the disputed comment is a satirical comment with regard to the lawyers taken as a class and is not with regard to any determinate definite or identifiable group of lawyers.
'People do not view the comments or jokes made by stand-up comedians as statements of truth but take them with a pinch of salt with the understanding that it is an exaggeration for the purposes of exposing certain ills or shortcomings', the court explained.
The court also highlighted that if injunction of m is granted, it would amount to interference in the freedom of speech and expression of the Respondents.
While denying injunction, the court observed:
'The very essence of democracy is that a creative artist is given the liberty to project the picture of the society in a manner he perceives. One of the prime forms of exposing the ills of the society is by portraying a satirical picture of the same. Stand-up comedians perform that very purpose. In their portrayal they use satire and exaggerate the ills to an extent that it becomes a ridicule. In the humorous portrayal of the ills of the society the stand-up comedians use satire.'
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