Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., while addressing the concern with regard to derogatory remarks being canvassed in the Netflix Web Series “Hasmukh” , bench stated that,

“…essence of democracy is that a creative artist is given the liberty to project the picture of the society in a manner he perceives.”

Plaintiff filed the suit for seeking permanent injunction against defendants further streaming of the episodes if Web Series (TV Show) “Hasmukh” particularly Episode 4 of Season 1.

The said episode has been alleged to have contained derogatory remarks against the entire legal fraternity.

The remarks are not humorous nor come across as a joke and are not even near to any satire nor within the boundaries of a critique.

Following is the dialogue against which the subject suit was filed:

“Aisa pehla shehar dekha hai humne jahan chor bhi bade ameer hote hain. Lekin yahan unka naam chor nahin ‘vakeel’ hota hai. Aapke Vakeel sabse bade kamine aur chor hote hain. Ye kanoon ke thekedaar jo kabhi nahin honge giraftaar, kyunki ye kalam ke saath karte hain balatkaar. Are bhaiya, log kehte hain ki kanoon andha hota hai, main kehta hoon kanoon ganda hota hai, kyunki har vakeel ke haath mein chota sa itna danda hota hai.”

The said dialogue is highly disparaging, defamatory and it brings disrepute to the legal profession and lawyers.

Senior Counsels appearing on behalf of the defendants submitted that Lawyers cannot be defamed as a “class of persons”, nor can the Plaintiff be defamed by a general reference to Lawyers.

It is contended that where there is a statement describing a very wide class of individuals such as the reference made to lawyers, without identifying individual members, it cannot be said that lawyers have been defamed as a class or that individual members such as the Plaintiff have been defamed for belonging to the class of lawyer.

“Satire is a work of art. It is a literary work that ridicules its subject through the use of techniques like as exaggeration.”

Bench noted that the protagonist makes the impugned comment after facing a personal experience with a dishonest greedy lawyer.

Having experienced an immoral character, the protagonist thereafter, while performing on the stage as a stand-up comedian makes a satirical comment about the lawyers in general.

Further the Court also observed that,

“Web-series when viewed shows that it is a dark satirical comedy, attempting to expose the ills of various professions.”

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 for the purposes of exposing certain ills or shortcomings.

Thus, in Court opinion granting an ad interim injunction would amount in to interference in the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

In the humorous portrayal of the ills of the society the stand-up comedians use satire.

As noticed above, neither has the plaintiff pleaded not shown that the impugned dialogue in any manner refers to the plaintiff or refers to a definite group of individuals or lawyers out of the entire class of lawyers to which the plaintiff belongs.

Hence plaintiff has not been able to show that there exists a prima facie case in favour of plaintiff. [Ashutosh Dubey v. Netflix, Inc., I.A. 3754 of 2020 in CS (OS) 120 of 2020, decided on 05-05-2020]

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One comment

  • The decision of the court is right…but the remarks so made in the series is highly disturbing this is because it makes the viewers to form a mindset that lawyers are highly corrupted..

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