The Delhi High Court on Monday gave Republic TV and Times Now two weeks to respond to a defamation suit filed against them by a group of 38 Bollywood producers and film associations. It also cautioned the news channels against putting out “defamatory content” on television or on social media in the meantime, the website reported.
The , filed on October 12, seeks an injunction against TV news channels for “openly flouting” the Programme Code and making a “mockery of the criminal justice system” through their coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The suit singles out Arnab Goswami and Pradeep Bhandari of Republic TV as well as Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar of Times Now for "conducting media trials of Bollywood personalities”, and damaging their right to privacy.
The petitioners include production companies owned by Farhan Akhtar, Karan Johar, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, and Salman Khan.
Appearing for the petitioners, advocate Rajiv Nayar took issue with shows aired by Republic TV which he said were “a means to increase TRP”, according to Bar and Bench.
He denounced the“defamatory campaign” against Bollywood as “scurrilous”. “It began with reportage on Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide. Suicide became murder. Bollywood became criminals, drug peddlers, ISI, pro-Pakistani jehadis,” Nayar was quoted as arguing.
“Times Now goes a step further because they access my WhatsApp chats and violate my right to privacy. My WhatsApp chats with the NCB...are accessed by them and put on the public domain,” Nayar continued.
Referring to how Rhea Chakroborty’s WhatsApp chats related to the NCB investigation were disclosed by the channel, Nayar that “this is more dangerous because this is actually the course of the investigation”.
The lawyer also cited reports by ABP News and Zee News.
He that the TV channels should be directed to delete all scurrilous tweets made against Bollywood.
Responding to the plaintiff’s arguments, the court bemoaned that “this kind of reportage is taking place all over the world”. “What should be done when you don't practice self-regulation? Your undertakings before the court and authorities are not working, it is very demoralising. Of course you can investigate, but you can't run a maligning campaign. There hasn't even been an FIR and channels start calling persons as accused,” quoted the court as saying. “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.”
The matter will next be heard on December 14.
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