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Trial By Fire: Should Interim Order Be Passed For a Web Series?

Dikshita More ,
  17 January 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Delhi High Court
Brief :

Citation :

Case title:

Sushil Ansal vs Endemol India Pvt. ltd. & ors

Date of Order:

12 January 2023

Bench:

Justice Yashwant Varma

Parties: Petitioner: Sushil Ansal

              Defendant: Endemol India Pvt. ltd. & Ors

Facts:

  • The "Trial by Fire" television series. The online series will debut on January 13, 2023. The plaintiff also asks for an order of mandatory and permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from publishing the book Trial by Fire: The Tragic Tale of Uphaar Fire Tragedy1 and from publishing its audio and video adaptations as well as from displaying, broadcasting, and telecasting the false and defamatory statements made in the book on digital and over-the-top (OTT) platforms. Against the defendants, another delivery-up relief is also demanded.
  • The court heard testimony from Mr. Siddharth Agarwal, learned senior counsel representing the plaintiff, Mr. Sethi, representing defendants Nos. 1 and 2, the creator and co-creator of the web series, Mr. Nayar, Mr. Sibal, representing defendant No. 3, Mr. Pahwa, representing defendants Nos. 4 and 5, the authors of the Book, and Ms. Bhandari, representing defendant No. 6, which had published
  • The application for an ad interim injunction, which has been moved and in which requests identical to those that are sought in the main suit are claimed by way of interim injunctive reliefs, has been the subject of arguments from the parties before this court. It would be important to take notice of the following key facts in order to fully understand the suggestions that have been answered.
  • A fire started on June 13, 1997, at the former Uphaar Cinema in Green Park, New Delhi. According to reports, the catastrophe claimed the lives of 59 innocent people. On July 23, 1997, the Central Bureau of Investigation took up the investigation into that incident. In addition to the aforementioned, FIR No. 207/2006 is said to have been filed against the plaintiff and other identified defendants in connection with claims of evidence tampering. The competent court rendered its decision in Sessions Case No. 13/2007, often known as the Main Uphaar Case, on November 20, 2007, finding the plaintiff guilty of offences under Sections 304A, 337, and 338 of the Indian Penal Code, 18602, as well as Section 14 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The complainant received a two-year sentence of solitary confinement as well as a fine of Rs. 5,000. The plaintiff is reported to have filed an appeal against the aforementioned conviction verdict, which was dismissed by this court in an order dated December 19, 2008, upholding the conviction but modifying and reducing the punishment to one year and a fine of Rs. 5,000.
  • On September 22, 2015, the Supreme Court increased the plaintiff's sentence from one year to two years, with the option of paying a fine of Rs. 30 crores in lieu of the newly imposed additional one year of jail. Furthermore, it was stated that the term would be reduced to the amount of time already spent in jail in the case that the plaintiff paid the fine.
  • The Association of Uphaar Tragedy Victims favoured dismissing review applications on February 9, 2017. The plaintiff filed an appeal, which was decided on July 18 and 19, 2022, by the Appellate Court, which upheld the conviction and reduced the plaintiff's sentence to the time already served, subject to payment of a fine of Rs. 3 crores. Unquestionably, the plaintiff is said to have paid the fine that was issued without jeopardising its rights. The Association of Uphaar Tragedy Victims has filed a revision petition with this court in opposition to the aforementioned Appellate Court ruling, which is currently being considered. Additionally, the plaintiff filed a revision petition, which is still pending with this Court's board.
  • The official trailer for the web series Trial by Fire is rumoured to have been released on January 4, 2023. According to the allegations, the aforementioned series asserts to be based on the Book written by defendants Nos. 4 and 5, and it asserts to be based on actual occurrences. The plaintiff claims in the lawsuit that his pals got in touch with him and informed him that the series' trailer would make them less favourable toward him.
  • Further, it is claimed that he didn't buy a copy of the Book authored by defendants Nos. 4 and 5 until he learned that the impugned series was based on its contents. After reading the book, he found that it was filled with false and libellous statements. When reading paragraph 81 of the plaint, it is clear that these facts and allegations are present. The plaintiff further claims in paragraph 81 that the aforementioned events have caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm, humiliation, stigmatisation, and loss of reputation. It is further argued that publishing the web series will have a negative impact on the resolution of the revision petitions, which are currently before this Court and stem from the evidence tampering case.

Issues Raised:

The 83-year-old real estate magnate Sushil Ansal has petitioned the Delhi High Court to restrain the release of the Netflix series Trial by Fire, is it correct?

Agruments:

  • Sushil Ansal, the chairman of the Ansal API Group, asked the Delhi High Court on Wednesday to halt the publication of the Netflix series Trial by Fire- The Tragic Tale of the Uphaar Catastrophe, which is based on the 1997 Uphaar Cinema tragedy.
  • The Netflix series Trial by Fire, which is scheduled to premiere on January 13, is the subject of a complaint brought before Justice Yashwant Varma's bench. The complaint claims that the official teaser/trailer for the series shows direct references to Sushil Ansal and the dramatised role of Ansal in the said incident and its aftermath.
  • Ansal's senior attorney claimed that Ansal had already been tried and found guilty for the initial 1997 case, which resulted in the deaths of 59 individuals. Ansal was imprisoned after being found guilty of violating Indian Penal Code Section 304 (culpable homicide). But the series demonstrates that Ansal is a serial killer The attorney continued.
  • Justice Varma also saw the Trial by Fire series teaser, where Ansal claimed his name was mentioned.
  • Referring to the book on which the series has been based, senior counsel representing Ansal stated that, according to the book, Ansal is a mass murderer, yet I have never faced charges against me and have never been found guilty. Imagine how the 1.5 million views on the trailer will affect how people perceive the actor.
  • The senior counsel further told the court that although they allege that Ansal never apologised, Ansal came up before the Supreme Court and apologised with folded hands, it's there in the order, despite the fact that Ansal never apologised.
  • He also conceded, the petitioner acknowledges that no one today knows what will be in the film, and that it will be a misrepresentation of Ansal and the ruling. There is real trepidation. This film focuses on how Ansal is a mass murderer rather than the charges against him.
  • However, Senior Counsel for Netflix argued that a disclaimer clearly states that the characters are fictional and that the book is used as a source for the fiction. He stated that Netflix doesn't know if it's him or another Sushil Bansal.
  • Additionally, it was stated that the injunction was requested based on claims made in the book. Can we guess what the movie will be, he continued.
  • Another experienced attorney who spoke on behalf of the respondent demonstrated why the public interest will not be served by the stay of release. He claimed that 59 young lives were lost, making it the heinous occurrence. People are entitled to information. It is the tale of two parents. People ought to be informed, he declared.
  • For the parents, senior attorney Vikas Pahwa asserted that Ansal had omitted the fact that he was unaware of the book. Additionally, the attorney representing the book's publisher, Penguin Books, claimed that reviews of the book appeared in numerous newspapers, including as the Hindu, when it was first published.
  • Senior counsel for Ansal responded to the aforementioned statement by arguing that while Penguin Books is correct in stating that the book is a fictionalised account of the victim's parents, the movie claims to be based on actual facts.
  • The bench held off on making any decisions about the matter of an ad-interim injunction after listening to the arguments from all sides. It should be mentioned that the plea argued that Ansal's representation in the Trial by Fire series' trailer and teaser caused and is likely to continue to cause significant and irreparable injury to Ansal's reputation and his right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Conclusion:

In light of this and the aforementioned reasons, the honourable court of Delhi High Court had denied the prayer for the granting of ad interim reliefs. As a result, the application will be rejected at this time.
 

 
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