HC questions celebs for not joining proceedings individually, filing plea through associations

·4-min read

New Delhi, Nov 9 (PTI) The Delhi High Court sought to know on Monday as to why Bollywood celebrities have not raised the 'media trial' issue as individuals and are being represented via associations in a suit seeking to restrain the media from making alleged “irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks' against the film industry.

The high court also observed that people are afraid of the media, the fourth pillar of democracy, because of its powers and cited that Princess Diana died while racing away from the media.

It further stated that the black and white Doordarshan era, though seems stale, used to be much better and had 'lovely broadcasters'.

The court’s observation came while hearing a lawsuit by four Bollywood industry associations and 34 leading production houses 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.

No celebrity has filed a suit against the media in individual capacity although advocates, during the hearing, cited instances related to targeting of Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.

They have sought to restrain various news channels including Times Now and Republic TV from interfering with the right to privacy of persons associated with the industry.

'In the case of Princess Diana, she died because she was racing away from the media. You can't just go on like this. The courts are the last ones to want to regulate,” the court said.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher, who said there is a need for some toning down by news channels, also acknowledged some of the outstanding work done by the media.

During the hearing, senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, appearing for the plaintiffs, said there is one channel which was following actress Deepika Padukone since the beginning from her Goa residence to Goa airport and then from Mumbai airport to Mumbai residence, “Now it is alleged as if Shah Rukh Khan has links with Pakistan and ISI,” he said.

To this, the judge, “The only question I have is that there are some individuals who claim to be aggrieved, why are they not made plaintiffs? Why is it half hearted?” When Nayar replied that the individuals are members of the association which has filed the suit, the judge said “I understand that. But there is defamation of a class and defamation of individuals. If the individuals are affected, why are they not joining the proceedings. They should come on their own and take steps”.

The counsel said he will take instructions from his clients on this aspect and apprise the court on the next date of hearing.

Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, representing Bennett Coleman group, raised a preliminary objection that the plaintiffs are referring to an individual's social media chats but they are not making him/ her a party to the suit.

The high court asked him to rise above his brief and answer large issues as tomorrow it could by legal fraternity in place of Bollywood.

“There needs to be some toning down. There are orders from NBSA (News Broadcasting Standards Authority). But it seems that news channels are not following that. As an officer of the court, tell me what is the next step here if you do not follow self-regulation?,” the judge said, adding that it is a general remark across the board and everyone should think about it.

“It is a little disheartening and demoralises everyone...we expect fair reportage,” Justice Shakdher said and recalled the black and white DD era.

“We used to find Doordarshan very stale, but we had some lovely broadcasters then... I think the black and white DD was much better,” the judge said.

Advocate Malvika Trivedi, appearing for Republic TV and Arnab Goswami, said the court should also see the outstanding work done by the Media and that recently, it cannot be ignored that there was a lot of information concerning the mysterious deaths of two personalities which had come to the public domain due to the media's role.

To this, the judge said he will be the first person to say that the media has done some outstanding work and made it clear that the court was not saying the media cannot report but they were on the manner of reporting.

“See the kind language of language you are using on TV. Participants in the debate are using curse words,” the court said.

It also said courts hesitate in restraining media reports because it is a constitutional right but fair reportage and neutrality is expected.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Arvind Nigam and Sajan Poovayya, appearing for the intermediaries, said they are only platforms and they will abide by the orders passed by the court. PTI SKV SA