‘Sacred Games’ case: Can plea against Netflix series be heard as PIL, asks HC

The court listed the matter for further hearing on July 19

July 16, 2018 01:13 pm | Updated 01:17 pm IST - New Delhi

 A man rides his scooter past a hoarding of Netflix's  television series "Sacred Games" in Bengaluru, Karnataka on July 11, 2018.

A man rides his scooter past a hoarding of Netflix's television series "Sacred Games" in Bengaluru, Karnataka on July 11, 2018.

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought to know whether it could hear as a public interest litigation (PIL) a plea claiming that some scenes in the Netflix series “Sacred Games” are derogatory to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and should be removed.

A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar asked the petitioner’s advocate to first advance his submissions on the point of maintainability of the plea as a PIL and listed the matter for further hearing on July 19.

The Bench said it has gone through the CD of the series, placed on record by the petitioner, and there was nothing urgent in it as all the episodes have been aired.

It also asked how the actors could be held liable for enacting their characters.

The court said a person is entitled to express his views, which may be right or wrong, and asked the petitioner to satisfy it on how the court could interject.

“Are there other remarks in the series or any other material as far as Rajiv Gandhi is concerned? You don’t require any CBFC certificate before airing?” the Bench asked.

The court was hearing a plea filed by petitioner advocate Nikhil Bhalla, through advocate Shashank Garg. It contends that the show, starring Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, “incorrectly depicts historical events of the country like Bofors case, Shah Bano case, Babri Masjid case and communal riots”.

Senior advocate Chander Lal, appearing for Netflix, and senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, representing production house Phantom, said the series has eight episodes that have already been aired and does not require a CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) certificate.

The petitioner’s counsel told the court that Mr. Bhalla has a history of being a Congress member but has filed this plea in his personal capacity and it was not a case of personal interest.

The plea has alleged that certain scenes and dialogues in the show defamed the late Congress leader.

The plea has sought directions to Netflix Entertainment, the show’s producer — Phantom Films Production Ltd. — and the Centre to ensure “in toto” removal of the allegedly offensive scenes and derogatory remarks made directly or indirectly against the former prime minister or his family.

The first season of the show, comprising eight episodes, was released on July 6 and is available in 190 countries in four languages, the petition has said.

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