Tamil Nadu

Right to privacy, reputation extinguishes after death: HC

CHENNAI, 11/04/2008: Madras High Court buildings in Chennai on April 11, 2008. Photo: V. Ganesan  

The right to privacy of an individual and the reputation earned during their lifetime extinguishes after death, and therefore, neither of them can be inherited by the legal heirs of the deceased, as is the case with immovable and movable properties. The legal heirs also cannot attempt to protect them through the initiation of legal proceedings, ruled the Madras High Court on Friday.

Justices R. Subbiah and Sathi Kumar Sukumara Kurup passed the ruling while dismissing an appeal preferred by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece J. Deepa. The appeal had been filed against a single judge’s refusal to injunct the release of Kangana Ranaut and Arvind Swami-starrer Thalaivi on the ground that the film was not made with her consent, and therefore, might sully the image of Jayalalithaa.

Disagreeing with the appellant, the second Division Bench wrote: “Personality, reputation or privacy enjoyed by a person during his/her lifetime comes to an end with his/her death. We are of the opinion that a posthumous right is not an alienable one. Therefore, the appellant is not entitled for an injunction on the ground that the posthumous right of her aunt is sought to be sullied by the release of the film titled Thalaivi.”

Authoring the verdict, Justice Subbiah also pointed out that the movie was yet to be released, and hence, it was too early for the appellant to claim that the makers of the film would cause damage to the reputation of her aunt. “The release of the movie is subject to certification by the Central Board of Film Certification and the board will have an opportunity to go through the contents of the movie,” he said.

The Bench also agreed with senior counsel P.S. Raman, representing the movie’s director A.L. Vijay and producer Vishnu Vardhan Induri, that there was no obligation on the part of the film-makers to obtain the appellant’s consent before making a movie on her aunt’s life.

The constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression was not conditioned or restricted on the premise that a film-maker must portray only a particular version of facts, it said.

The judges also quoted the Bombay High Court as having said that “those who hold important positions must have shoulders which are broad enough to accept with grace a critique of themselves and critical appraisal is the cornerstone of democracy. The power of the film as a medium of expression lies in its ability to contribute to that appraisal and the film-maker cannot be compelled to portray only a particular version of the facts.”

Passing a common order, the judges also refused to grant any relief against the web series Queen. They recorded the submission of senior counsel Satish Parasaran, representing its director Gautham Vasudeva Menon, that the web series got released long back, and hence, there was no question of granting an injunction. The counsel also said that the web series was not a biography as such, but just a fictional rendition of a story inspired by true events.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 12:53:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/right-to-privacy-reputation-extinguishes-after-death-hc/article34340089.ece

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