CHENNAI: A division bench of the Madras High Court on Friday upheld the order of a single judge refusing to restrain the makers of web-series centering around late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
"The protection under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution that a film-maker enjoys is not conditional on the premise that he must depict something which is not true to life. The choice is entirely his," the court said.
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 a democracy, the bench of Justices R Subbiah and Sathi Kumar Sukumara Kurup, said.
And the power of the film, as a medium of expression, lies in its ability to contribute to that appraisal and that the film-maker cannot be compelled that they must only portray one particular version of the facts in a web-series or movie, the bench added.
The bench was dismissing an original side appeal from J Deepa Jayakumar, the niece of Jayalalithaa, challenging the order dated December 12, 2019 of the single judge rejecting her interim plea to restrain A L Vijay, Vishnu Vardhan Induri and Gowtham Vasudev Menon, the leading crew members of the production units of differenr web-series on the late leader.
The petitioner alleged that the serials were produced without her consent, a direct descendant of Jayalalithaa. Moreover, certain scenes in the serial portrayed her aunt in poor light.
Dismissing the appeal, the bench noted that it was the assertive submission of Menon that the serial ('Queen') was inspired by true events and it was dramatised in fictional reaction.
Even otherwise, there is a 'disclaimer' stating that it is not a biography depicting any character.
Hence, the judges said that "we are of the view that even if the appellant is in any manner aggrieved by the portrayal of the former Chief Minister or her family members in the web series, the only remedy now open to the appellant is to seek appropriate legal remedy for damages."
"When the web series (Queen) was already released in the OTT platform and it was also viewed by scores of people, an injunction against its telecast cannot be granted."
"The single judge had also given liberty to appellant/plaintiff to re-apply at a later juncture, if there is a change in the circumstances, on the basis of the first series of episodes of the web-series," the court said.
The single judge was, therefore, right in refusing to grant an interim injunction, as claimed by the appellant. "We do not find any infirmity in such an order of the single judge," the bench said.
The right of freedom of speech and expression enshrined under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India is not conditioned/restricted on the premise that a film-maker must only portray one particular version of facts.
Therefore, there is no obligation on the part of the respondents/defendants to take prior consent from the appellant/plaintiff, the bench added.