Many of Bollywood’s biggest production houses and industry bodies came together on Monday to move the Delhi high court seeking to restrain two television news channels from making or publishing alleged “irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks” against the film industry.
The lawsuit — filed by four industry associations and 34 production houses, including those owned by Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Farhan Akhtar, Rohit Shetty, Vinod Chopra, and Ashutosh Gowariker — also asked for the channels to be barred from conducting a “media trial”.
The Film & Television Producers Guild Of India (PGI), Cine & TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA), Indian Film and TV Producers Council (IFTPC), Screenwriters Association (SWA), Yash Raj Films, and Reliance Big Entertainment, were among the other petitioners.
The petitioners sought directions against Republic TV, its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and consulting editor Pradeep Bhandari; Times Now, its editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar, and group editor Navika Kumar, as well as social media platforms.
“The plea 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’, ‘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’,” read the petition, filed by law firm DSK Legal. The matter is likely to be heard this week.
“We are seeking an apology and stay on the kind of coverage that’s being done on news channels,” said Ramesh Taurani, board member, IFTPC.
Amit Behl, senior joint secretary of CINTAA, said the film industry comprised hard-working individuals and couldn’t accept being collectively labelled with allegations. “All of us stand united against attempts to defame the entire filmmaking community,” he added.
The petition came after roughly four months of media controversy over the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in his Mumbai home on June 14.
The incident is currently being probed by several government agencies – including the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and Narcotics Control Bureau. Some sections of the media have blamed Bollywood stars for the death of the 34-year-old actor and, based on private chats and messages, implied that some top film stars and producers were part of a drug ring.
Kumar and Shivshankar said they did nothing wrong.
“Cases against journalists of Times Now that have only sought justice for those who are wronged are a bad precedent. The mighty may think they can weaken the resolve of the fearless at Times Now but they are wrong,” Shivshankar tweeted.
“If fighting for justice invites court cases, bring it on. All the A-listers can come together but India will continue to fight for the truth. You can’t intimidate us @TimesNow & can’t take away the viewers who believe in us. Let truth prevail,” Kumar tweeted.
“Even after the case involving the unfortunate death of actor Mr. Sushant Singh Rajput (which appears to have triggered the diatribe against Bollywood) was transferred to the CBI, these defendants indulged in what could be aptly described as a frenzy suggesting that the CBI would start making arrests,” the petition read.
The petition said it didn’t seek a blanket gag order on media reportage in the Rajput case but wanted an injunction on publication of material that violated applicable laws.
The plea said Bollywood was a huge source of revenue, foreign exchange and employment. “The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign being run by the defendants,” the petition said.
The suit alleged that the defendants conducted and published private investigations and effectively acted as courts to condemn people connected with Bollywood as guilty based on alleged evidence, making a mockery of the criminal justice system.
“The privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded, and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire Bollywood as criminals, seeped in drug culture, and making being part of Bollywood as synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination,” the plea read.
The suit contended this was not the first time legal action was initiated against the defendants and some of them were penalised earlier for alleged irresponsible reportage and defamatory content.
The petition came days after actor Rhea Chakraborty – Rajput’s girlfriend – got bail in a drug case. Chakraborty’s lawyer also threatened to take action against people who implicated the 28-year-old actor in Rajput’s death and the drug racket.
Others who have filed the suit are 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 also included 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 and Rohit Shetty Picturez.