A petition filed by late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s father asking for a stay on the release of films based on his life and likeness has been dismissed.
‘Nyay: The Justice’ is due to release on June 11 in India, just days before Rajput’s first death anniversary.
Rajput was found hanging at his home in Mumbai on June 14, 2020. He was 34. According to NDTV, his father Krishna Kishore Singh claimed the movie was shot without the family’s consent.
“Defendants (filmmakers), taking advantage of the situation, have been trying to encash this opportunity... plays, movies, web-series, books, interviews or other material may be published which would harm the reputation of the son of the plaintiff and his family,” the petition read, according to reports.
However, the bench led by Justice Sanjeev Narula dismissed the petition that named the movies ‘Nyay: The Justice’, ’Suicide or Murder: A star was lost’, ‘Shashank’ and another unnamed film.
"Delhi High Court dismisses late actor Sushant Singh Rajput's father's petition against the proposed movies being made about the actor's life. Sushant's father had filed the plea restraining anyone from using his son's name or likeness in movies," a tweet by news agency ANI read.
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Rajput's father, represented through senior advocate Vikas Singh and lawyer Varun Singh, has contended that the filmmakers are taking advantage of the situation for commercial gains and therefore, the right to freedom of speech and expression would not apply to them.
"Plaintiff (Singh) has apprehension that various plays, movies, web-series, books, interviews or other material may be published which would harm the reputation of the son of the plaintiff and his family," claimed the suit, seeking damages of over Rs20 million from the filmmakers for "loss of reputation, mental trauma and harassment" to Rajput's family.
Opposing the plea, senior advocate Chander Lall, appearing for the director of 'Nyay', has said the movie's release has been widely publicised and therefore, he would not be able to give any assurance with regard to holding it back.
He said Rajput's caricature, name or likeness has not been used in the film.
Lall as well as the counsel for the producers have told the court that restraining anyone from making any movie on what happened to Rajput would be an infringement of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.
They stated that Rajput being a celebrity, people need to know what happened to him and cited examples of movies, both Indian and foreign, made on various individuals and companies without their express permission and said that such activity was permissible.
They also said that since Rajput has passed away the rights of fair trial and privacy cannot be inherited by his father.
Counsel for Rajput's father has opposed the contentions of the film's producers and director saying since the father filed the complaint, which was the basis of the FIR and trial, and also the present suit, he had a right to fair trial and privacy.
The director of film 'Shashank' was represented through advocate A P Singh.
The suit has also claimed that in case a "movie, web-series, book or any other content of similar nature is allowed to be published or broadcasted, it would affect the right of the victim and deceased for a free and fair trial as it may cause prejudice to them".
It has also contended that Rajput being a well-known celebrity, "any misuse of his name/ image/ caricature/ style of delivering dialogues also amounts to infringement of the personality right vested with the plaintiff besides amounting to acts of passing off".
Rajput’s suicide shocked Bollywood and the wider Indian population, with many saying his death was part of larger issues of nepotism and drug use in Bollywood. Since then, a number of investigations have been opened.
Most recently, Rajput’s former domestic helps were summoned by the Narcotics Control Bureau for questioning. It came days after the NCB arrested the late actor’s flatmate Siddharth Pithani in a drug-related case, nabbing him in Hyderabad and keeping him in custody until June 1.
The NCB has been probing the drugs angle in the actor’s death case. It started the investigation after it received official communication from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), in which there were various chats related to drug consumption, procurement, usage and transportation.
Pithani’s arrest also came almost months after it filed a 12,000-page charge sheet against 33 people, including Rajput’s girlfriend, actress Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik and others in the Bollywood drugs mafia probe linked to Rajput’s death.
- With inputs from PTI