HC asks Bollywood producers to reply on Bennett Coleman’s plea to reject defamation suit

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New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought response of leading bollywood producers on an application by Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd seeking rejection of the lawsuit filed by them against the media house and others in which they have sought to restrain them from making irresponsible remarks.

Justice J R Midha issued notice on the application filed by Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd, Times Now editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar and group editor Navika Kumar and asked the Bollywood producers to file a reply within three weeks and listed the lawsuit for further hearing on March 23.

The lawsuit by four Bollywood industry associations and thirty-four leading producers, including those owned by Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Karan Johar, Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Rohit Shetty, as also Yash Raj Films and R S Entertainment, has also sought that the channels be restrained from interfering with the right to privacy of persons associated with the industry.

The high court had earlier sought replies of AGR Outlier Media Pvt Ltd (Republic TV), its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and reporter Pradeep Bhandari, Times Now editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar and group editor Navika Kumar, and intermediaries Google, Facebook and Twitter on the leading Bollywood producers' plea.

In the fresh application, the Times group has raised the issue of jurisdiction and claimed that the Delhi High Court has no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the lawsuit against it and no cause of action has arisen in favour of the producers and against the media houses, considering that the plaint allegedly complains of defamation of unidentifiable group of person and as such, defamation is not made out.

“Even otherwise, no defamatory content has been published by the defendant (Times group) herein against the plaintiff (producers) which amounts to defamation as alleged or otherwise or at all. Hence the present suit is not maintainable and as such, the present suit is liable to be dismissed,” the application stated.

It said “All the plaintiffs reside within the territorial jurisdiction of Mumbai. Substantially, the defendants also reside within the territorial jurisdiction of Mumbai.

“From a plain reading of the plaint, it can be seen that the plaintiffs have failed to provide any reason/justification as to how the cause of action, in whole or in part, as alleged or otherwise or at all has arisen in favour of the plaintiffs and against the defendants within the territorial jurisdiction of this court. Hence, the present suit is liable to be returned to the court of appropriate jurisdiction wherein the alleged cause of action has arisen in favour of the plaintiffs, if any,” it said.

The court has extended its interim order asking media houses AGR Outlier Media Pvt Ltd and Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd to ensure that no defamatory content will be uploaded on social media platforms or displayed on their channels.

The high court was earlier assured by the counsel for the media houses that they will follow the programme code and the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act.

It had questioned the plaintiffs for not making individual celebrities parties in the suit and they are being represented through associations.

The suit has said, “This comes in the wake of these channels using highly derogatory words and expressions for Bollywood such as 'dirt', 'filth', 'scum', 'druggies' and expressions such as 'it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned'... and 'cocaine and LSD drenched Bollywood'.” Those who have filed the suit are The Film and Television Producers Guild Of India (PGI), The Cine and TV Artistes' Association (CINTAA), Indian Film and TV Producers Council (IFTPC), Screenwriters Association (SWA), Aamir Khan Productions, Ad-Labs Films, Ajay Devgn Fflims,Andolan Films, Anil Kapoor Film and Communication Network, Arbaaz Khan Productions, Ashutosh Gowariker Productions, BSK Network and Entertainment, Cape of Good Films, Clean Slate Filmz and Dharma Productions.

The list includes 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 (Ramesh Sippy Entertainment), Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures, Red Chillies Entertainment, Reel Life Productions, Reliance Big Entertainment, Rohit Shetty Picturez.

The other plaintiffs are Roy Kapur Films, Salman Khan Films, Sikhya Entertainment, Sohail Khan Productions, Tiger Baby Digital, Vinod Chopra Films, Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures and Yashraj Films.

In the plea, the producers have sought that the defendants (media persons) shall take down all the defamatory content published by them against the film industry.

It claimed that the privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire industry as “criminals seeped in drug culture”. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS