Delhi HC dismisses Mehul Choksi’s plea for pre-screening of Netflix’s “Bad Boy Billionaires”3 min read

By- Akshay Gurnani

The Court stated that the appropriate remedy in the present case was filing a civil suit and not a writ petition.
The Delhi High Court today dismissed Mehul Choksi’s petition seeking a pre-screening of Netflix’s docu-series, Bad Boy Billionaires which is scheduled to be released on September 2 (Mehul Choksi vs UOI). While granting liberty to the now Antiguan businessman to pursue appropriate legal remedies, a Single Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla opined that a writ petition was not maintainable in the present case.
Delhi High Court stated, “In my opinion, a writ for enforcement of a private right, in this manner, is not maintainable.” The Court stated that the appropriate remedy in the present case was filing a civil suit and not a writ petition.
Choksi had moved the High Court earlier this week alleging that the Netflix series had the propensity to prejudice the investigation and trial against him as it featured his nephew and co-accused in the PNB scam case, Nirav Modi.
Under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, he was entitled to the presumption of innocence, a free and fair trial, and right to reputation, Choski said in his petition.
The petition also sought a direction to the Central Government to take steps to regulate content on OTT platforms.
Appearing for Choksi, Advocate Vijay Aggarwal vehemently argued in favor of regulating the content which is shown on OTT platforms to the extent that it does not violate the rights under the Constitution of India and other laws.
“They (Netflix) cannot claim that they are above the law. They have a positive obligation to respect the Constitution”, he said.
Cautioning against the facilitation of a narrative indicting Choksi even before a trial, Advocate Aggarwal remarked, “Aarushi, Akshardham, Bofors, 2G … You may portray them in any light but these people got acquitted.”
In response to the petition, the Central Government maintained that it had no power to regulate content on OTT platforms. Netflix argued that the writ petition was not maintainable.
Appearing for Netflix, Senior Advocate Neeraj Nishan Kaul contended that the appropriate remedy in the present case was a civil suit and that the writ petition was not maintainable.
He also pointed out that the issue of whether the Central Government had the power to regulate OTT platforms had already been decided in the negative by the High Court.
On the merits of the petition, Senior Advocate Kaul argued at length against the adverse effects of pre-censorship and the narrow scope to curtail free speech.
“Everyday documentaries are made… if we start (pre-screening) because a writ petition is filed by someone, it will be a form of censorship … There cannot be a general rule”, he said as he conceded that only in rare circumstances such a request may be accepted.
He explained the plot of the series and said that merely two minutes were devoted to Mehul Choksi to only show that Nirav Modi worked with him. Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan took the argument forward and stated that Choksi was a fugitive who had escaped from law.
“What trial is he talking about? India does not recognize ex parte trial…”, he remarked.
Senior Advocate Krishnan also pointed out that Choksi had not even made the Producers of the series as a party.
After hearing the parties at length, the Court refused to entertain the writ petition as it opined that a civil suit was the appropriate remedy in the case. As far as the issue of regulation of the content on OTT platforms was concerned, the Court clarified that in view of the judgments by the Divison Bench, no relief could be given.

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