The Delhi High Court (HC) on Monday sought the response of the Centre and Netflix, an over the top (OTT) media services provider, on a plea by Mehul Choksi challenging the dismissal of his petition, where he had sought pre-release viewing of the docuseries Bad Boy Billionaires.
Choksi, a fugitive Indian-born fugitive businessman, who has taken the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean islands, is a key accused in the Rs13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case along with his nephew Nirav Modi.
Bad Boy Billionaires focuses on the fraud committed by many high-profile business tycoons in the country. The poster released by Netflix shows Modi; Subrata Roy, the managing worker and chairman of Sahara India Pariwar; Vijay Mallya, the chairman of United Breweries (UB) Group; and Ramalinga Raju, the former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Satyam Computer Services.
A two-member HC bench, comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, issued notice to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and Netflix on the appeal filed through advocate Vijay Aggarwal after Choksi was denied relief by a single judge, who had asked him to file a civil suit and dismissed the plea.
On August 28, Justice Navin Chawla had dismissed a plea by Choksi, the uncle of diamantaire Modi, seeking a pre-release screening of Bad Boy Billionaires to be aired on Netflix on September 2 while stating that Choksi may file a civil suit seeking relief.
Justice Chawla had said that the alleged infringement by him is a private right and cannot be granted by the court. The judge had also said that there are no regulations to control the content on the OTT.
On Monday, Choksi’s counsel contended that his petition was dismissed on the ground that it is a private right and the matter is not maintainable even though it is his constitutional right.
He said that Choksi is facing trial and in some of the cases where he is a co-accused, a charge sheet has been filed. He contended that Choksi’s case and trial would be prejudiced if the docuseries is aired. He said that Choksi is under investigation and has a right to fair trial and investigation.
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, who appeared for Netflix, opposed the plea stating that the single judge has dismissed the plea stating that a civil suit. He said that the plea is not maintainable as no party can come to the court in a bid to satisfy him.
The court issued notice to the respondents seeking to know their stand and posted the matter for the next hearing on September 23.
The petition said that Choksi got to know of the documentary’s release on August 24 when he saw the trailer following which he was flooded with phone calls from across the world. The callers, including from Delhi, asked Choksi whether he was part of the documentary and to solicit his comments.
The petition stated that Choksi feared that his name could be used in connection with Modi in the documentary even though his relation to the fugitive diamantaire is only that of an uncle and a nephew.
The petition also stated the series might have an episode on Choksi, which could lead to a media trial. It cited that the petitioner has the right to free and fair trial and such a documentary would cause serious prejudice to his case.