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Mehul Choksi V. Union of India & Ors

Citation: W.P.(C) 5677/2020 & CM 20540/2020

Case Type: Writ Petition

Case No: 5677/2020

Decided On: 28/08/2020

Petitioner: Mehul Choksi

Respondent: Union of India & Ors

Justice: Hon’ble MR. Justice Navin Chawla

Statutes Referred: Information and Technology Act

Case Referred: Justice for Rights Foundations vs Union of India

Nikhil Chawla vs Union of India & Ors

Facts:

Mehul Choksi, the fugitive Indian Businessman is a key accused in the ₹13,500 Crore Punjab National Bank fraud case along with the nephew Nirav Modi.

“Bad Boy Billionaires” is a docuseries of Netflix which focuses on the the fraud committed by the high-profile business tycoon in the country.

Mehul Choksi files a petition praying for pre-screening of the docuseries as it might have a prejudicial effect on the pending investigation and trails against him.

Issues Involved:

The petitioner prays that the Court should declare a writ to the authority to regulate the screening of the docuseries “Bad Boy Billionaires”

Whether pre-screening of the docuseries was possible.

Whether the episodes/portion of the docuseries could be terminated/postponed to release until the pending investigation and trials against the petitioner comes to an end.

Observation/Obiter Dicta:

Hon’ble High Court of Delhi observed that no mandamus could be granted when the Information and Technology Act itself provides explicitly about the safeguards as to the content that is permissible to be broadcasted on the social/internet platform. If the petitioner finds that such provisions is breached then a complaint to the prescribed statutory authority is to be filled.

“In the facts and circumstances of the case, we see no reason to issue any mandamus for bringing into place any guidelines or statutory regulation for the said purpose when the Information and Technology Act itself provide for enough procedural safeguards for taking action in the event of any prohibited act being undertaken by the broadcasters or organizations in the internet/online platform.”

Hence the Court dismissed the prayer of the petitioner for directing the concerned authority to regulate the screening of the docuseries “Bad Boy Billionaires”.

With regard to the question of pre-screening of the doscuseries and prejudicial effect on the petitioner’s pending trail and investigation the learned counsel for the respondents have established that the documentaries is based on the matters and facts which are widely debated and available in media and would not in any manner prejudice the pending trail.

Hon’ble High Court maintained that , “ a writ for enforcement of a private right in this manner cannot be maintained. Whether the offending documentary proposed to be telecast by the respondent no. 2 and 3 can cause any prejudice to the petitioner in the pending trial or not and whether it is based on information already in public domain, et cetera, are questions that are best to be left to be determined by a civil court. The remedy of the petitioner, if any, would be in form of a civil suit as what is being alleged by the petitioner is an infringement of his private right by a private body”.

Rationale:

A writ of mandamus is used to enforce the duties which the public authoritites are expected to perform. It can be issued when such public authority has refused to perform its duties. It is always issued in favour of a person who posses a legal right.

The Information Technology Act provides legal recognition to the transaction and communication taking place through electronic form/medium. It lays down enough provision to safeguard against cyber fraud and provides provision for penalties. It also lays down the procedure to apply to the prescribed authority for breach of the provision of the act.

Judgement:

Hon’ble High Court observed that when Information and Technology Act provides for safeguard against misuse of information being exhibited from internet platform then declaring a writ to regulate the docuseries was not required. Further whether the docuseries actually had adverse effect on the pending trail of the petitioner was upon the civil court to decide by a civil suit. Hence the petition was dismissed.

Conclusion:

The case discusses the validity of the writ filled by the petitioner to issue writ to the concerned authority to regulate the screening of the docuseries “Bad Boy Billionaires”. But the court observed that when enough safeguards are already provided in the Information and Technology Act then it is not the authority of the court to issue any writ.

Also when the docuseries is based on the facts already in public then the question of breach of fair trail does not apparently arises. But even then the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi has suggested to raise the concern to the civil court through a civil suit.

Prepared by Kaushal Agarwal