Bombay High Court refuses to stay the OTT release of Hindi web series “The Railway Men - The Untold Story of Bhopal 1984”

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The Bombay High Court, in its recent order on November 16, 2023, refused to stay the OTT release of a Hindi web series “The Railway Men - The Untold Story of Bhopal 1984,” which is all set to come out on November 18, 2023. The appeal was filed by two convicts, erstwhile employees of Union Carbide India Private Ltd., who approached the HC in two separate petitions challenging the City Civil Court order refusing ad-interim relief. They also sought to stay on the release of the web series and demanded a pre-screening to find out any factual errors. The HC was not convinced by the submissions and dismissed the appeal observing that the disclaimer at the beginning of the film clearly states that it was a ‘work of fiction’ and only ‘inspired’ by the tragedy. The bench further ordered, “The right to the Appellants to have pre-screening of a fictional work belonging exclusively to the Respondent is indeed untenable. In the event the Appellant is in any manner aggrieved by the web series or feels defamed etc., after it is aired the Appellants have their remedies in law to seek damages etc.,”

While addressing the matter, the bench pointed out that “It cannot be disputed that the Bhopal Gas Tragedy was a most terrible and unfortunate event that made headlines and continued to remain in the news not only Nationally but also Internationally for several years. The gas leak and the events that surrounded it have been discussed and examined over the years and form the basis of a host of material which includes documentaries, books, articles, films, videos, etc. all of which are in the public domain. Hence even assuming that the web series touches upon this aspect in passing, the Appellants can have no right to an injunction staying the release of the web series on this count.” 

Moreover, the November 15, 2023 order of the HC was also considered by the Bombay HC which stated, “The entire premise for seeking a stay of the release of the said web series is the same may adversely affect the Appellant’s legal proceedings. This is prima facie untenable for three reasons, 

(a) that the Appellant already stands convicted in connection with the Bhopal Gas Tragedy 

(b) the Trial having come to an end in the year 2010, the contents of the trial and judgment were available in the public domain and 

(c) counsel for YRF (Yash Raj Films) has produced the disclaimer which will precede the airing of each episode which specifically caveats ‘This series is a work of fiction, inspired by real events’. 

Given this, I find that the Appellants have, in my view at this stage, not satisfied the very high threshold test required to stay the release of the said web series.”

During the hearing, Advocates Ratnarani Roy, Anirban Roy, Aman Jhawar, Bhavesh Parmar, Reshma Nari, and Rahul Gaikwad appeared for the two appellants. On the other hand, YRF Pvt Ltd. was presented by Advocates Sapna Chaurasia, Darshit Jain, and Abhishekh Malhotra.