Tragic Journey Outweighs Reputation Loss: HC Against Stay On Netflix Drama
Netflix drama Trial By Fire is adapted from Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy's book of the same name based on the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire.
Delhi High Court today refused to stay the release of 'Trial by Fire', a Netflix web series adapted from Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy's 2016 book on the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy in which 59 people were killed.
The high court's decision came on a plea filed by Sushil Ansal who was convicted for the disaster. The high court dismissed Ansal's plea observing that Krishnamoorthys' "tragic journey through police precincts and court halls far outweighs the asserted and yet unsubstantiated loss of reputation".
"A slothful or sluggish plaintiff seeking an injunction of the nature which is sought in these proceedings cannot be allowed to claim such reliefs," the high court said.
The high court said it found no justification to consider an injunction considering the series is based on a book that was published in 2016 and information that has been in the public domain for the past 26 years.
"Commencing from the date when the First Information Report came to be recorded and right up to the ultimate conviction of the plaintiff, the press, as well as social media platforms, have consistently tracked and reported developments relating to the said crime," the order said.
"Undisputedly, the horrific incident which occurred on 13 June 1997 has been the subject matter of public debate and discussion since then. The unimaginable tragedy which unfolded on that date made a nation bow its head in shame. The negligent conduct of the plaintiff (Ansal) is well documented and also fell for adverse comment by our Supreme Court as would be evident from the extracts of its decision…," Justice Yashwant Varma said.
Fictional rendition of incident in public domain not defamatory
Justice Yashwant Varma observed the work on which the web series is based has been penned by parents who had lost teenage children in the unfortunate incident. "It is a story which alleges a systemic failure, manifests a cry of anguish against the manner in which the incident was prosecuted and tried," the 39-page order read.
It essentially represents their perspective and opinion. A fictional rendition of their trials and tribulations cannot, prima facie, be presumed to be defamatory," the order further said. More fundamentally, Krishnamoorthys' "personal experience and perception" of the incident or Ansal's culpability "would remain their belief, impression, and understanding of the entire episode", the judge added.
The high court said, "In any case and prima facie the Court finds itself unconvinced to record or arrive at the conclusion that the narrative could be said to be wholly fantastical or deprived of a semblance of the truth as conceived."
The high court was further constrained to observe that prima facie Ansal clearly appeared to have concealed material facts and misrepresented the assertion that he became aware of the book 'Trial by Fire' only on or about 08 January 2023.
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