Tamil Nadu

Madras HC quashes FIR registered against actor Suriya, ‘Jai Bhim’ director Gnanavel 

Actor Suriya in a scene from the movie ‘Jai Bhim’

Actor Suriya in a scene from the movie ‘Jai Bhim’

‘Magistrate appears to have forwarded the complaint mechanically without applying his mind’

The Madras High Court on Thursday quashed an FIR registered against actor Suriya and ‘Jai Bhim’ director T.J. Gnanavel at the Velachery police station in Chennai for having allegedly intended to outrage the feelings of the Vanniyar community by portraying it in a bad light in the film, which was released on an OTT platform.

Justice N. Sathish Kumar allowed a joint petition filed by the actor and the director to quash the FIR, which was filed on May 17 at the instance of Chennai-based advocate K. Santhosh, of Rudra Vanniyar Sena. The judge observed that no one forced the complainant to be a captive audience, and that he was free not to watch the movie if he was aggrieved over its making. Observing that courts would generally interfere with an FIR only in extraordinary circumstances, the judge said the one booked in the present case was completely fallacious, since the provision of Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of IPC was not attracted at all.

Since the complainant was primarily aggrieved over the fact that the character of a bad policeman in the movie was named Gurumurthy, which sounded similar to the name of a famous Vanniyar leader, the judge said hundreds of people had similar-sounding names, and that in itself could not become a reason to file a criminal case against a filmmaker.

The continuation of prosecution in the present case would amount to infringement of the rights of the filmmakers under Article 19(1)(a) [right to freedom of speech and expression] of the Constitution, Justice Kumar added. He also pulled up a Metropolitan Magistrate at Saidapet in Chennai for having forwarded the complaint to the police for registration of the FIR. The judge said the Magistrate appeared to have forwarded the complaint mechanically, without applying his mind properly. Though the Magistrate had made a generic observation that cognisable offences had been made out in the complaint, he failed to go into the specifics and mention the exact offences that were made out.

He also cited several judgments delivered by the Madras High Court as well as the Supreme Court while deciding disputes related to movies such as Aamir Khan-starrer ‘PK’ and Vijay-starrer ‘Kathi’ to drive home his point that frivolous complaints against the artistic freedom of the creators must be rejected by the courts of law.

In their petition, Mr. Suriya and Mr. Gnanavel said ‘Jai Bhim’ was a movie based on a custodial death case, which Justice K. Chandru, a retired judge of the High Court, had conducted while he was a lawyer. Except his name and the name of former Inspector-General of Police Perumalsamy, the names of all other characters were changed in the movie. The filmmakers consciously did not want to use the real names of the characters since most of the accused (suspended policemen) had served their sentence in full, and were still alive. Further, it was indicated at the beginning of the movie that it was inspired by real-life events, and was not an actual portrayal of them.

They said Gurumurthy was a generic name, and no motive could be attributed for having named the bad policeman in the movie by that name.


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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 10:36:41 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/madras-hc-quashes-fir-registered-against-actor-suriya-jai-bhim-director-tj-gnanavel/article65757350.ece