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Sacred Games row: Delhi HC asks petitioner to justify PIL; Kolkata complaint withdrawn

The Delhi High Court has asked the petitioner who had filed a plea against the Netflix series Sacred Games to justify that the petition stands as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). The advocate who filed the case on an individual capacity, Nikhil Bhalla, is associated with the Congress party, and the court therefore asked that this petition’s validity as a public interest issue be justified. A lawyer close to the case told MediaNama that the petitioner’s case would be hard to make if they are unable to justify why the case is being filed as a PIL. The next hearing, where petitioners will have to submit a written response to this question, will be on Thursday.

The court also questioned why Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the actor who said the dialogues in question, was named as a respondent. “That’s not done,” a two-judge bench of Justices Chander Shekhar and Sanjiv Khanna said. The court also said that this case cannot be compared with lynchings based on false WhatsApp forwards, considering that the latter actually led to violence, and is completely different in nature.

The case

The Delhi High Court case was filed by advocate Nikhil Bhalla because of dialogues about former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. In one line, for instance, the character Ganesh Gaitonde calls Rajiv Gandhi a wimp in Hindi, which a previous version of the subtitles translated as ‘pussy’. Bhalla petitioned for the scenes with such dialogue to be removed.

Soon after that complaint, Congress president Rahul Gandhi — also the former PM’s son — posted this tweet:

While the court won’t be taking this tweet into consideration yet, the petitioners will have to justify that this PIL is in the public interest — which the respondents might challenge with the above tweet. The case will only proceed if the PIL is maintainable as such.

The case is Writ Petition (Civil) number 2018/7123: Nikhil Bhalla v. Union of India & Ors. Details available on the Delhi High Court website.

Kolkata complaint withdrawn

A Kolkata criminal complaint — the first action against the show — has been withdrawn. MediaNama confirmed that the case has been withdrawn from Rajeev Sinha, the Congress member who filed the petition. Sinha told MediaNama: “After Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, it was an eye-opener for me that Rajiv Gandhi’s sacrifices for the country cannot be clouded by a small dialogue. From someone who forgave his martyred father’s assassins, this is a teaching moment for party workers like us.”

The All India Cine Workers’ Association also filed a complaint against the dialogues in Mumbai. AICWA’s president Suresh Gupta told MediaNama that discussions are still on on whether or not to proceed with the complaint.

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