The Delhi High Court on Monday directed news channels, including Times Now and Republic TV, to ensure that no defamatory content against Bollywood or any member of the film industry is broadcast on their channels or through their social media platforms.
A bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher assembled earlier in the day to hear a case filed by an industry body that included several top production houses, a total of 34, including some run by major filmmakers such as Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Aditya Chopra, among others.
The law suit was filed against the two media houses to “refrain them from making irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood as a whole and members of Bollywood, and to restrain them from conducting media trials of Bollywood personalities.”
Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi appeared on behalf of Times Now and Malvika Trivedi for Republic TV while Akhil Sibal and Rajiv Nayar appeared for the industry body.
The court asked the respondents to file written statements in two weeks. The next hearing in the case is slated for December 14.
1. Nayar said that Arnab Goswami had suggested that Bollywood has links with Pakistan. Reporting which started with Sushant Singh Rajput’s death then moved to drug peddling and Bollywood’s alleged connection with Pakistan and ISIS, he said.
2. Nayar argued that Goswami of Republic claimed that Shah Rukh Khan supports jihad and the “ideology of Imran Khan” and that “SRK must issue a public statement denouncing these links with terror supporters”.
3. He further said that Times Now’s reporting was even more dangerous as its interferes with the investigation, pointing out how anchor Navika Kumar accessed private WhatsApp chats. “I don’t know how they got them’, he said
4. Defendants must be restrained from interfering with plaintiffs’ right to privacy, added Nayar. “There’s one channel that is hounding Deepika Padukone , from airport to Goa.”
5. Advocate Akhil Sibal pointed out that despite repeated reprimanding by the National Broadcasters Association, channels are not doing self-regulation. Therefore, the courts must intervene.
6. Nayar summarised the grievances against the defendants: There’s defamation, breach to right to privacy, jeopardising personal safety, injurious falsehood. He also demanded that videos already on Facebook and YouTube should be taken down immediately.
7. The court said it respects “clear reportage and neutrality”, reminiscing about the Doordarshan days. “Those were the lovely days.”
8. Sandeep Sethi, appearing on behalf of Times Now, said, Imputations claimed by the plaintiffs as defamatory are not in any manner made against them. In no manner, the right to privacy of the plaintiffs are violated. It is not the case of the plaintiffs that any one of them is facing a trial or investigation “None of the plaintiffs are aggrieved parties in the present case,” he claimed.
9. The court asked the defendant, “What’s your answer to complaints made against such reporting? There has to be some toning down, Programme Code needs to be complied with. What should be done when you don’t practice self-regulation? What do we do about this? Your undertakings before the court and authorities are not working, it’s very demoralising. Of course, you can investigate, but you can’t run maligning campaign. There hasn’t even been an FIR and channels start calling persons as accused
10. The court pointed out that “even trained, educated minds” get affected by misreporting. It also said that dragging personal lives into the public domain comes at a cost, citing the example of Princess Diana. “Our observations apply to all of you, you have to tell us what to do. If you don’t follow the Programme Code, we will enforce it.“
11. The court issued a notice to all the parties, and directed them to file written statements within 2 weeks. It also directed the defendants to follow the programme code in the meantime. No order was passed to take down videos already on YouTube.