The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Union government and the Press Council of India (PCI) to respond to a petition by actor Rakul Preet Singh seeking to restrain news channels from airing contents which are defamatory or “suggestive innuendos” against her in the Rhea Chakraborty narcotic drugs case.
Justice Navin Chawla also issued notice to Prasar Bharati and the News Broadcasters Association, on Ms. Singh’s plea seeking direction to news channels to broadcast content strictly in adherence to the Programme and Advertising Codes as prescribed in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1985.
“It is hoped that media houses and TV channels would show restraint and abide by the Program Code and other guidelines while making report in connection with Rakul Preet Singh”, the court remarked.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma said there cannot be a blanket ban or pre-censorship on airing contents on news channel. Ms. Singh had not made any complaint against news channels.
Directive to authorities
The court also asked the authorities to treat Ms. Singh’s petition as a representation and take a decision on it before the next hearing on October 15.
In her plea, Ms. Singh stated that she was a well-known Indian film actor and model who had worked in the Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi film industry.
“The Petitioner, who is a non-smoker and a teetotaller and into fitness, yoga and meditation, is known for her healthy lifestyle”, the plea said.
The actor said she was shooting for a film near Vikarabad in Telangana when she was stunned to see private TV channels running “breaking news” from the evening of September 11 of her along with actor Sara Ali Khan and designer Simone Khambatta, being named as the individuals who take drugs by Ms Chakraborty.
The actor categorically stated that she did not take drugs, and had, to the best of her recollection, met Ms. Khan twice – once at the IIFA awards and once while working out in a gym – and had not met Ms. Khambatta at all.
Ms. Singh alleged that certain news channels were “insidiously” flashing a morphed photograph of the her on a two-wheeler with Ms. Khan and Ms. Khambatta so as “to insinuate and make a false and suggestive innuendo that the three of them hung out together”. She also claimed that certain news channels were “deliberately” flashing photographs of her in skimpy clothes so as to sensationalise and garner attention.
The petition stated that despite the fact that Ms. Chakraborty had retracted her statement, the TV channels continued to run a slander campaign against her.
“This campaign not only maligns the reputation of the Petitioner [Ms. Singh] but also contains defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths” which, she said, caused irreparable damage to her reputation, dignity, privacy and her commercial interests.