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Gangubai Kathiawadi: Supreme Court dismisses plea against film’s release

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The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea of Babuji Rawji Shah, the adopted son of Gangubai Kathiawadi, who had moved the Apex Court for an injunction against the release of the film after the Bombay High Court had turned him down.

On Wednesday, the Apex Court had suggested to the makers of the film Gangubai Kathiawadi to change its title and release it on February 25 (Friday) in view of legal challenges against it.

The bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice J.K. Maheshwari was hearing the petition of Shah, who claimed to be an adopted son of late Gangubai Harjivandas @ Kathiawadi, had filed the plea against The Mafia Queens of Mumbai authors S. Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, actor Alia Bhatt. The Bombay High Court had dismissed Shah’s interim application for an temporary injunction restraining the authors of the novel from printing, publishing, advertising, selling, alienating, assigning and/or creating any release of third party rights and/or holding any press meets, promoting The Mafia Queens of Mumbai.

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Today, Senior Advocate C. Aryama Sundaram, who appeared for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, submitted that the novel published 2011 only glorifies what Gangubai had accomplished.

He said,

“We are dealing with the issue that the movie has not been seen yet by anyone, so at this juncture, legal right has been given by the censor board. Petitioner Babuji Shah is depriving me to exercise my legal right.”

He argued before the court that there are line of judgments which particularly states that defamation is a right in personam and it dies with the death of a person. Also, the title of film is not Mafia queens of Mumbai.

Further, he argued that if that person shows how has the reputation been affected by such allegations, one has to prove loss of reputation caused from such act. Even in the Bombay High Court, in the criminal defamation filed by Babuji Shah, he could not prove through any documents that he was adopted by late Gangubai Kathiawadi who was a public figure, and died 44 years ago.

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“That title of movie has been advertised worldwide, promos have already been released, the name of which is in public arena,” contended Sundaram.

There is no sensibility there in title Mafia queens of Mumbai, he submitted. Justice Indira Banerjee interjected and submitted that there are two things in defamation, one is damages and one is injunction.

If film shows that how she has come from red light area, the struggle she faced, how that can be defamatory by any chance, asked Sundaram.

“Declaration may not be necessary, if other parameter is satisfied,” Justice Banerjee said.

“Without any prima facie finding, defamation may not stand, ” Sundaram submitted.

“We have been promoting our film from past 7 months. Late Gangubai Kathiawadi is not a victim,” contended Sundaram.

Justice Banerjee replied: “If you personally ask me, no one is a victim, it is perhaps the accused who commits the crime.”

Sundaram: “According to me, it’s a motivating story which motivates others.”

Justice Banerjee: “When you talk about in general, half of the problem of sensitiveness goes away.”

Aryama Sundaram continued his submissions before the bench that ration card is not only proof of adoption. When you write about a public figure, you write about all the aspects.

Also, the person concerned needs to show that in what manner the person who is being defamed and then next to show the person defamed is affecting you personally and in that too, in what manner, he added.

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Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Bhansali Productions Pvt Ltd, began his submissions.

“Gangubai character is kind of glorifying one, it depicts as to how she rose from that level, coming from different circumstances which is not at all derogatory, in my opinion.”

“A movie has freedom of expression subject to some restrictions,” submitted Rohatgi. “He has to establish locus that I am adopted son.”

Rohatgi added: “Court has held that he has not proved his legal character. There are total 3,000 theatres across India, 2,000 or more theaters abroad, third party rights (satellite rights), tickets sold all over place for tomorrow’s show.”

He then read out Rule 32 of Cinematography Act,1983, and pointed out that instead of taking remedy under this rule, Babuji Shah preferred to go to court.

“Other books have also mentioned about that lady (shows book named Cages before the court), It’s not only the particular book (Mafia Queen) talks about the lady,” Rohatgi argued.

Shah attempts to bring Section 499 of IPC in civil suit, Rohatgi said.

Justice Maheshwari asked Shah that he has mentioned in his plaint that he is the son and not the adopted son.

The Bench asked, “Show us which part of the book is defamatory?”

Justice Banerjee asked Shah: “You have not mentioned in what manner you were adopted whether it was by deed or by Hindu rites and rituals.” The bench then dismissed the SLP.

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