A civil suit has been filed before Delhi High Court by four Bollywood industry associations and 34 leading production houses, praying that the court direct the news channel Republic TV, Arnab Goswami and Pradeep Bhandari of Republic TV, the news channel Times Now, Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar of Times Now, and unknown defendants as well as social media platforms to refrain from making or publishing irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against the Hindi film industry as a whole and members of Bollywood.
The suit also sought to restrain the news channels from conducting media trials of Bollywood personalities and interfering with right to privacy of people associated with the film industry.
The plaintiffs also prayed that the defendants abide by the provisions of the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, and to withdraw, recall and take down all defamatory content published by them against Bollywood.
This comes in the wake of the above-mentioned channels using words and expressions for Bollywood such as “dirt”, “filth”, “scum” and “druggies”, and expressions such as, “it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned”, “all the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood”, “this is the dirtiest industry in the country”, and “cocaine and LSD drenched Bollywood”.
The civil suits pleaded that Bollywood denizens are a distinct and well recognised class adding that over several years, the industry has been a huge source of revenue for the public exchequer, and has earned significant foreign exchange for India from overseas film releases as well as generating tourism. The suit also reminded that the industry is a big source of employment, with various other industries also being dependent on it.
The suit reminded that Bollywood is unique and stands on a different footing from any other industry inasmuch as it is dependent almost solely on goodwill, appreciation and acceptance of its audience.
The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign run by the defendants, the suit asserted, adding that this was in addition to the ongoing pandemic, which has resulted in extreme losses in revenues and work opportunity.
The privacy of the members of Bollywood was being invaded, the civil suit contended, and their reputations irreparably damaged by painting the entire industry as criminals seeped in drug culture. To be a part of Bollywood was being painted as being synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination, it was stated.
Almost all well-known names in Bollywood are represented through the plaintiffs, including Producers Guild of India, Cine & TV Artiste Association, Film and TV Producers Council, and Screenwriters Association.
That apart, 34 production houses have also been represented. These are: Aamir Khan Productions, Ad-Labs Films, Ajay Devgn Fflims, Andolan Films, Anil Kapoor Film and Communication Network, Arbaaz Khan Productions, Ashutosh Gowarikaer Productions, BSK Network and Entertainment, Cape Of Good Films, Clean Slate Filmz, Dharma Productions, Emmay Entertainment and Motion Pictures, Excel Entertainment, Filmkraft Productions, Hope Production, Kabir Khan Films, Luv Films, Macguffin Pictures, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, One India Stories, R.S. Entertainment, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures, Red Chillies Entertainment, Reliance Big Entertainment, Reel Life Productions, Rohit Shetty Pictures, Roy Kapur Productions, Salman Khan Ventures, Sohail Khan Productions, Sikhya Entertianment, Tiger Baby Digital, Vinod Chopra Films, Vishal Bhardwaj Film, Yash Raj Films.
According to the plaintiffs, the channels in question have been regularly flouting the Programme Code framed under Section 5 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and contained in Rule 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, which governs the television channels owned and operated by these Defendants.
A recent example being furnished is the reportage following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. When the case was transferred to CBI, these channels rushed to suggest that the CBI would start making arrests. The plaintiffs point out nothing of that sort has yet happened. They added that a few of the channels were openly conducting and publishing parallel private ‘investigations’ and effectively acting as “courts” to condemn Bollywood personalities as guilty based on what they claim was “evidence” found by them, thereby trying to make a mockery of the criminal justice system.
The plaintiffs stated that they do not seek a blanket gag order against media reportage of the investigation in the Sushant case but merely seek a perpetual and mandatory injunction against the defendants from carrying on with reportage that violates applicable laws. The suit has been filed by DSK Legal on behalf of the plaintiffs.