'Fictional, no violation of privacy': HC quashes plea against films on Sushant Singh Rajput
Court also noted that since the information of events that have occurred is already in the public domain, one cannot plead any violation of the right to privacy if a movie is inspired by such events
The Delhi High Court on Thursday declined to stay the release of movie, Nyay: The Justice, scheduled for release on Friday, purportedly based on the life of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
A bench of Justice Sanjeev Narula dismissed an application filed by Krishna Kishore Singh, Sushant's father, against the movie and other ventures using his son's name or likeness in the form of a biopic or story.
The court noted the right to privacy has also been invoked not just of the deceased but also of his family.
"The submissions on this aspect are unspecific and vague. No definite instance has been presented by the plaintiff to show how this right is infringed upon and therefore, the plea is devoid of merit," said the court.
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The court also found merit in the contention of one of the defendants that if the information of events that have occurred is already in the public domain, one cannot plead any violation of the right to privacy if a movie is inspired by such events.
The court noted that the events which form the subject matter of the film are in the public sphere, and therefore it does not find any justification to restrain the publication of work that draws inspiration from such events.
"Since the defendants' films are neither portrayed as a biopic, nor a factual narration of what transpired in the life of SSR and are depicted to be completely fictional and inspired from certain events which have occurred in the past and have been widely discussed and are available in the public domain, the Court finds no reason to grant a restraining order," said the court.
According to Singh's plea, some of the upcoming or proposed movie projects based on his son's life are -- Nyay: The Justice, Suicide or Murder; a star was lost, Shashank and an unnamed crowd-funded film.
Singh expressed apprehension that various plays, movies, web series, books, interviews or other material may be published which would harm the reputation of his son and his family.
The court noted that the suit was filed close to the release of the film, after substantial time, money and effort have been expended by movie makers on production and promotion. "For this reason, the balance of convenience lies entirely in favour of the defendants," said the court.
Rajput's father, represented by senior advocate Vikas Singh and advocate Varun Singh, contended that the filmmakers are taking advantage of the situation for commercial gains and therefore, the right to freedom of speech and expression would not apply to them.
The court observed the fictional rendition for dramatic representation based on certain events falls within the scope of artistic freedom of expression and speech.
The court added that as long as the name was not used and a disclaimer was published along with the movie, the filmmakers cannot be disallowed from making a movie based on such events.
Vikas Singh had fleetingly argued that the right of free speech, in matters of news reporting, does not enjoy the same protection when it comes to matters of commercial exploitation.
"The argument is misconceived, and one cannot read this classification of core and non-core rights under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. The protection and guarantee provided by the Constitution would apply with equal rigour, even if the publication leads to commercial gain," said the court.
The suit filed by Rajput's father sought damages of over Rs 2 crore from the filmmakers for "loss of reputation, mental trauma and harassment" to Rajput's family.
The court noted that without knowing the contents of the film and only by relying on some news articles, the plaintiff cannot argue that the depiction in the films is intended to tarnish.
Senior advocate Chander Lall, representing the director of Nyay, opposed the plea, arguing that Rajput's caricature, name or likeness has not been used in the film.
Actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found hanging in his Bandra apartment under mysterious circumstances on June 14, 2020.