Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Delhi HC Denies Ban on Netflix Web Series ‘Hasmukh’ For Allegedly Defaming Legal Profession

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday has denied a ban on ‘Hasmukh’ a Netflix web series in an application seeking ban alleging it to be defaming and maligning Advocacy as a profession.

It was alleged by the petitioner that statements in the series are highly disparaging, defamatory, and bring disrepute to the law profession and lawyers and advocates in the eyes of the general public.

The petitioner Mr. Ashutosh Dubey appearing in person submitted before the court that the remarks are neither humorous nor come across as a joke and are not even near to any satire nor within the boundaries of a critique.

The Dialogue in the series translates to “This is the first city I have seen where even the thieves are rich. But out here, they’re called lawyers. Your lawyers are the biggest scoundrels and thieves. These so-called upholders of law will never be brought to justice because they rape you with their pen. People say the law is blind. But I say the law is dirty because every lawyer carries a little stick in his hand.”

Whereas, Senior Advocate appearing for Netflix said that, in the present case the petitioner has failed to show any prima facie case and has not been able to even show any personal injury or violation of any right entitling him to grant of any injunction.

The written submission filed Netflix stated that after the instances in the story of the series in sync with the theme of the Web-Series and as would be expected by any viewer of the Web-Series, the Protagonist performs a stand-up comic act, wherein he refers to ‘lawyers in Mumbai’.

Counsel appearing for respondent also submitted that the settled position of law is that howsoever reprehensible or morally unjustifiable the words complained of maybe, for the words to be actionable, they must contain an imputation concerning some particular person or persons whose identity can be established i.e. in case of a defamatory imputation against a collection of persons, such collection of persons must be a definite and determinate body so that the imputation in question can be said to relate to its members or components.

Acting upon the plea, the single judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva observed that “Perusal of the impugned episode clearly shows that the impugned dialogue is spoken by the Protagonist while performing on stage as a stand-up comedian. The web series and especially the episode when looked at in its entirety shows that the protagonist performs on the stage as a stand-up at comedian after facing some adverse experience at the hand of a particular profession or professionals.”

“The web-series when viewed shows that it is a dark satirical comedy, attempting to expose the ills of various professions. The protagonist makes a statement as a stand-up comedy about the ills of various professions,” the order stated.

The Court also observed that people do not view the comments or jokes made by stand-up comedians as statements of truth but take them with a pinch of salt with the understanding that it is an exaggeration to expose certain ills or shortcomings.Further, if an ad interim injunction is granted, it would amount to interference in the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by our Constitution to the defendants.

“The very essence of democracy is that a creative artist is given the liberty to project the picture of the society in a manner he perceives. One of the prime forms of exposing the ills of the society is by portraying a satirical picture of the same. Stand-up comedians perform that very purpose,”the Court order stated. Hence, the application seeking a ban on the Netflix Web series has been dismissed.

However, the case will continue its hearing, the next hearing is scheduled on 7th July 2020.

-India Legal Bureau

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