Delhi HC reserves order on suit seeking stay on release of web series based on Uphar cinema tragedy

Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a suit moved by real estate baron Sushil Ansal against the upcoming Web series ‘Trial By Fire’, which is based on the 1997 Uphar Cinema tragedy.
Businessman Sushil Ansal, who was convicted in the Upahar Tragedy case, through a suit, sought a permanent and mandatory injunction restraining the production company and others from releasing the limited web series, which is slated for release on January 13, 2023, on the OTT platform Netflix. After hearing the submissions at length, the Bench of Justice Yashwant Varma reserved the order in the matter.
Appearing for Plaintiff Sushil Ansal, senior advocate Siddharth Aggarwal submitted that the plaintiff was held guilty under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — causing death by negligence and not murder.
“It is well settled that negligence excluded mens rea and therefore, to call the Plaintiff a ‘murderer’ and a killer in the Impugned Book is grossly defamatory and wilfully false,” the court noted.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Upahar Tragedy Victims Association (UPTVA), opposed the suit saying, “When the book was published, an application was filed in the Apex Court that they shouldn’t be allowed to travel abroad. Notice was issued to them and reference of the book was in application.”
Appearing for Netflix, senior advocate Rahiv Nayar submitted that the plaintiff is not entitled to any relief as the book, on which this web series is based, is in the public domain since 2016 and is being given a character of a picture. The concept of the book has been transformed into a film. On January 4, when the official trailer was released, the plaintiff did not approach the court, Nayar said, adding that it only did so on January 10 “when we are scheduled to release it on January 13, 2023”.
The bestseller ‘Trial By Fire: The Tragic Tale of the Uphaar Fire Tragedy’ was written by Neelam Krishnamoorthy and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy. The Netflix series stars Rajshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol as the authors Neelam and Shekhar.
Businessman Sushil Ansal also sought restraint of further publication and circulation of the book, published by Penguin Random House Ltd.
The suit further stated that the ‘impugned series’ is said to be based on true events pertaining to the tragic fire that took place on June 13, 1997, at Uphaar Cinema in Green Park, New Delhi. The official teaser/trailer for the series was released on January 4, with direct references to the plaintiff and the dramatized role of the plaintiff in the said incident and its aftermath, the suit said.

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The portrayal of the plaintiff in the trailer and teaser of the series has the propensity to cause further immense and irreparable harm to the Plaintiff’s (Sushil Ansal) reputation and his right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, it stated further.
Ansal stated that the release of the series will lead to further prejudice and harm to him and will be in grave breach of his fundamental rights, inter alia, to privacy as envisaged by the Constitution, it stated.
It said that on January 4, the plaintiff and his family “were shocked and perturbed to come across a trailer on the OTT platform of Netflix announcing the release of the Impugned Series titled ‘Trial by Fire’ starring prominent actors, produced by Endemol India Pvt Ltd and House of Talkies”.
On June 13, 1997, a fire broke out in the erstwhile Uphaar Cinema at Green Park, New Delhi, in which 59 people lost their lives and over 100 were injured. The fire broke out during the screening of the Hindi film ‘Border’.
Sushil Ansal, along with his brother and several others, were convicted in the case that came to be known as the ‘Uphaar tragedy’.
The owners of the Uphaar Cinema, Gopal and Sushil Ansal, were sentenced to a year in prison after they were found guilty of causing deaths by negligence. However, the latter was pardoned due to his old age.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by HW News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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