Injunction contrary to freedom of speech: Netflix to HC

Injunction against 'Hasmukh' would be contrary to freedom of speech & expression: Netflix to HC

Representative image/Reuters

Online media streaming platform Netflix has opposed in the Delhi High Court a plea seeking injunction on broadcast of its 'Hasmukh' web series, saying any such order would be contrary to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.

The suit seeking injunction on airing of the series or deletion of some of its content, especially from the fourth episode, was moved by a Supreme Court lawyer who said the web series maligned the image and reputation of advocates everywhere.

The court had issued notice to Netflix and the show's producers and director seeking their stand on the suit filed by lawyer Ashutosh Dubey.

It also reserved its order on Dubey's application seeking interim stay on airing of the series.

Netflix, in its written submissions placed before the court, has contended that there are several judgements which say that lawyers as a class cannot be defamed.

It has said that if an injunction is granted in this matter then it will open the floodgates to defamation litigation by "so-called class of persons, including chartered accounts, engineers, doctors, IAS officers, police officers, who may not agree with any cinematic or theatrical portrayal of their class".

In the show, the protagonist, in each episode, murders professionals from various facets of life who have committed some wrong and then performs a stand-up act on such people, Netflix has contended.

It further said that the series' theme makes it clear that the intention was not to defame or malign any particular profession, but the idea was to "spin a dark satirical comedy about evil in various walks of life and its impact on society".

Netflix, represented by senior advocate Amit Sibal and advocate Saikrishna Rajagopal, has contended that if the suit is allowed then it would "sound the death knell for parodies and satire" which rely on making people laugh through critical comments on the state of affairs in society.

"Exaggeration and hyperbole are an intrinsic an integral part of the satirical humour and ought not to be injuncted at the instance of persons like the plaintiff who claim to be aggrieved," Netflix has said.

It has further said that web series 'Hasmukh' is a work of fiction and the statements made in it by its characters are only meant to be taken as a figment of imagination and humour and not as a matter of truth.

It has also said that neither Netflix nor the web series intends to defame or malign or bring disrepute to the image of the lawyers' community or the legal profession.

Apart by from seeking to stop airing if the show, Dubey has also sought directions to the web series producers, directors and writer to "tender unconditional apology online for maligning the image of the lawyers community, which includes judges too as they too had been lawyers at one point of time".

He has claimed that in episode 4 of the web series, lawyers have been allegedly referred to as thieves, scoundrels, goons and rapists.

Dubey, who practices in the Supreme Court, has contended that "statements (in the series) are highly disparaging, defamatory and bring disrepute to the law profession and lawyers and advocates in the eyes of general public".

It also seeks "deletion or removal of the statements and contents from the show 'Hasmukh', especially from episode 4 of the series.