Calcutta High Court


Calcutta High Court: Dismissing the Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench consisting of Prakash Shrivastava, C.J. and Rajarshi Bharadwaj, J. held that no case is made out to entertain this PIL as the object of filing the present PIL is to gain the publicity.

The Court observed that,

“Public interest litigation is a weapon which has to be used with great care and circumspection and the judiciary has to be extremely careful to see that behind the beautiful veil of public interest an ugly private malice, vested interest and/or publicity seeking is not lurking.”

In the instant matter, a PIL was filed by the petitioner, Ms. Nazia Elahi Khan alleging that “Koffee with Karan”, a talk show was promoting racism, sexuality and obscenity through words or visible representation. The petitioner also alleged that the talk show is now shifted to OTT platform therefore it is not censored or regulated by the Government of India now.

The respondents raised the preliminary objection about maintainability of the petition. The respondents contended that the petitioner has not availed the Grievance Redressal Mechanism has been provided under the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

The respondent also contended that petitioners had earlier filed similar petitioner questioning the exhibition of film “Laal Singh Chaddha” in the theatres and across the State of West Bengal which was dismissed by this Court.

The Court observed that the petitioner has nowhere admitted that she had watched the show, but it seems that the petition is based upon some newspaper reports. The Court further observed that though several instances were mentioned by the petitioner but other information such as episode number or date of such comments were not mentioned. Moreover, the allegations were not supported by any cogent materials. The Court pointed out that it is undisputed that the show has U/A rated.

The Court noted Indibily Creative (P) Ltd. v. Govt. of W.B., (2020) 12 SCC 436, where it was held that “Organised groups and interests pose a serious danger to the existence of the right to free speech and expression. If the right of the playwright, artist, musician or actor were to be subjected to popular notions of what is or is not acceptable, the right itself and its guarantee under the Constitution would be rendered illusory.”

Relying on State of Uttaranchal v. Balwant Singh Chaufal, (2010) 3 SCC 402 where it was held that before entertaining a PIL, the Court should be prima facie satisfied that the contents of the petition is correct and opined that the petitioner has not provided anything on record to ascertain the correctness of the PIL, moreover, the petitioner herself has not watched the show.

Discussing caution to be taken will entertaining a PIL, the Court stated Gurpal Singh v. State of Punjab, (2005) 5 SCC 136 where it was held that “The attractive brand name of public interest litigation should not be allowed to be used for suspicious products of mischief. It should be aimed at redressal of genuine public wrong or public injury and not publicity-oriented or founded on personal vendetta.”

Considering the controversy involved in the matter, the Court dismissed the PIL and held that no case can be made as the object of filing the present PIL is to gain publicity.

[Nazia Elahi Khan v. State of W.B., 2022 SCC OnLine Cal 3917, decided on 05-12-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Ronojoy Chatterjee (Senior Advocate), Ms. Piyeta Bhattacharjee and Mr. Debottam Das, Counsel for the Petitioner;

Mr. Samrat Sen (AAAG), Mr. Anirban Ray (GP), Mr. Nilotpal Chatterjee and Mr. Varun Kothari, Counsel for the State;

Mr. Sakya Sen, Mr. Rajarshi Dutta, Mr. Ranjit Kumar Basu, Mr. Parag Khandar, Ms. Shebatee Datta and Ms. Chandrima Mitra, Counsel for the Respondent nos. 5, 6, 8 & 9;

Mr. Ranjan Bachawat (Senior Advocate), Mr. Deepan Kumar Sarkar, Mr. Arunabha Deb, Mr. Ayush Jain and Ms. Deepti Priya, Counsel for the Respondent no. 7.

*Ritu Singh, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

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