The Delhi High Court has refused to restrain the continued online streaming of a film based on the life of the late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
Justice C Hari Shankar Tuesday dismissed an application by Krishna Kishore Singh, the father of the deceased film star, who claimed the movie ‘Nyay:The Justice’, which is streaming on an online platform, included defamatory statements and news articles, and violated the personality rights associated with Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR).
The application formed part of a lawsuit by SSR’s father against the filmmakers for making the movie without his consent.
Justice Shankar ruled no case for an interim relief was made in the present matter as the plaintiff sought to protect the “inheritable” rights of privacy, publicity and personality which vested in SSR who was no longer alive.
“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….,” said the court in its order dated July 11.
“I am of the opinion that no case can be said to exist to grant the prayers made by the plaintiff in (the interlocutory application). The IA is, therefore, dismissed,” the court ordered.
Rajput, 34, was found dead in his Mumbai apartment in suburban Bandra on June 14, 2020.
While the defendant film makers claimed the movie was a generalised version of struggling actors in the Hindi film industry with some inspiration taken from material in public domain, the court maintained the film was a “retelling” of SSR’s life and times, leading up to his tragic death.
“To put it plainly, the coincidences are one too many… the impugned film is a faithful retelling of SSR s life story, and the circumstances surrounding his untimely demise are, therefore, according to me, plain,” the court said.
“The disclaimer, inserted in the impugned movie cannot, therefore, in my considered opinion, detract from the reality that the movie is, in fact, a celluloid retelling of the life and death of SSR,” it added.
The information shown in impugned film, the court added, was entirely derived from items in media and constituted publicly available information. Therefore, a film made on such information cannot be said to be violating any rights of the deceased actor.
“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 court said.
“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) (freedom of speech and expression),” it said.
The court also rejected the plaintiff’s contention that permitting the telecast of the film will prejudice the right to fair, free and dispassionate trial of the circumstances surrounding
SSR s death.
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 a movie, the judge added.
The court clarified that the right of the plaintiff to maintain and prosecute the suit with respect to his claim of damages from the defendants stood preserved.
In 2021, a single judge bench of the high court had refused to pass any direction to stay the release of the film.
Mr. Chander M. Lall, Sr Adv. argued on behalf of the producers and directors assisted by Mr. Bhushan M. Oza, Mr. Anand Mishra, Mr. Vedant Verma, Mr Ms. Ananya, Mr Akhil, Advocates