The Delhi High Court said on Thursday that it did not want to curtail anyone’s freedom of speech and expression, and said that “criticism or even expression of dissatisfaction is permissible”, PTI reported. The court was hearing a petition demanding that certain scenes from Netflix series Sacred Games be deleted as they allegedly defamed late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The court asked petitioner Nikhil Bhalla to explain why the plea should be maintained as a public interest litigation. Bhalla’s counsel said Rajiv Gandhi was a former prime minister and a Bharat Ratna awardee, and so the entire country was aggrieved by the alleged derogatory scenes.
To this, the bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar said, “It could be a private injury. It cannot be a public injury. We do not think we can say that public injury is caused with it.”
The court added: “We do not want to stop or curtail anyone’s right. We pass directions only when we find any violation.”
Bhalla, who is associated with the Congress, alleged that the show has scenes where derogatory language has been used against Rajiv Gandhi. The former prime minister is referred to as “fattu” in one of the scenes. While the word “fattu” was initially subtitled as “pussy”, it has since been changed to “wimp”. The petition also alleges that the show “incorrectly depicts historical events of the country like Bofors case, Shah Bano case, Babri Masjid case and communal riots”.
Netflix’s counsel Chander Lal submitted in court that they had, on their own, changed the subtitle for “fattu”. Lal also said that Netflix did not want to offend anyone and cited Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi’s tweet.
On July 14, Rahul Gandhi disapproved of demands to censor references to his father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Sacred Games. “The BJP and the RSS believe the freedom of expression must be policed and controlled,” Gandhi tweeted. “I believe this freedom is a fundamental democratic right.” The Congress president said his father lived and died in the service of India and “the views of a character on a fictional web series can never change that”.
The court asked for a clipping of the changed word to be submitted in court and posted the matter for further hearing on August 6.
On Monday, the court had said actors cannot be held liable for the lines they read from a show’s script while hearing the petition.
Season one of Sacred Games, adapted from Vikram Chandra’s novel of the same name and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, consists of eight episodes. It was released on July 6. The series tells the story of Mumbai police officer Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), who is investigating the suicide of Mumbai ganglord Ganesh Gaitonde (Siddiqui). Radhika Apte plays a Research and Analysis Wing agent.
Sacred Games has also drawn brickbats from the Hindu Right Wing on Twitter, who allege that the series has hurt upper-caste Hindu sentiments. They have problems with several sequences.