India

Explained: A timeline of Producers Guild vs Times Now civil suit as both parties settle

Producers Guild of India and Times Now shared a joint statement today on the settlement of the case against the news channel for 'defamatory remarks' against film industry.

The Producers Guild of India on Tuesday said they have settled their civil suit over alleged "irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks" against the film industry with Times Now.

PGI, through its official Twitter handle, shared a joint statement with Times Now, and wrote that the matter had been resolved between the two parties.

Here is the statement

Here is a timeline of the case

September 2020: The Producers Guild of India called out the media for “peddling” what it termed clickbait journalism following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and trying to paint Bollywood as a murky den of substance abuse and criminality.

In a statement issued on social media, the Guild, headed by producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, also asked the media to stop fanning the flames and said common human decency is more important than advertising revenues and ratings.

This was the first time that Bollywood’s powerful producers body, which has 136 members formally issued a statement on the media coverage of the film industry, the intense trolling that actors are subjected to and the outsider vs insider debate.

October 2020: Four Bollywood industry associations and thirty-four leading producers, including those owned by Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Karan Johar, Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Rohit Shetty, as well as Yash Raj Films and RS Entertainment, had moved the Delhi High Court for "irresponsible and derogatory reporting by certain media houses" in the midst of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

The suit mentioned Republic TV's (owned by AGR Outlier Media) editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and consulting editor Pradeep Bhandari, Times Now's (owned by Bennett Coleman) editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar and group editor of politics Navika Kumar, as well as "unknown defendants as well as social media platforms."

The complaint also mentions the use of maligning terms such as "dirt", "filth", "scum" and "druggies" in the reporting of the case, as well as phrases like, "It is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned"; "All the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood"; "This is the dirtiest industry in the country"; and "Cocaine and LSD-drenched Bollywood".

November 2020: The Delhi HC issued notices to the aforementioned media houses on the plea filed by the Bollywood production houses and industry associations. The court also asked the channels to ensure that no derogatory remarks are broadcast on their channels or published on their social media accounts, according to Scroll.

Representing the plaintiffs, senior advocate Rajiv Nayar argued that the channels had likened Bollywood to the drug mafia. They had also violated the privacy of many film stars, including Rhea Chakraborty, by disclosing their Whatsapp chats. Actors like Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, and Rakul Preet Singh had been summoned by the Narcotics Control Bureau regarding the Whatsapp chats that reportedly made mention of drugs.

The court, however, did say that media outlets should cover pressing issues as long as "it is fair reportage". "There is no civility in discourse," said the court, and also criticised the channels for using expletive-laden language during panel discussions.

The Hindu reported that Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the outlets to adhere to the the Programme Code provided under the Cable Television Networks Rules. The court also sought replies on producers' plea from Republic TV, Times Now, and social media intermediaries such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

January 2021: Shivshankar and Kumar of Times Now had filed an intervening application saying the case is "not maintainable", Asian News International reported. The application said that the suit is "an abuse of process" and interferes with Article 19(1)(a) - freedom of speech and expression.

However, Justice JR Midha asked the plaintiffs to reply on the application and listed the matter for hearing for 23 March.

March 2021: The Delhi HC granted time to leading Bollywood producers to respond to the applications filed by Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd and the other media houses mentioned in the suit. Justice J R Midha allowed the request and asked them to file the replies within four weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on 25 May.

The high court also asked the parties to file brief note of submissions of not more than three pages along with relevant judgements relied upon by them three days before the next hearing.

Advocate Kartik Yadav, appearing for the Bollywood producers, sought three weeks more to file replies to the applications.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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