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Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan, Farhan Akhtar, their production companies, along with others, have moved the Gujarat High Court (HC) challenging a lower court’s order that had permitted legal heirs of the slain gangster Abdul Latif to join as plaintiff parties in a defamation suit seeking damages upto Rs 101 crore.
Abdul Latif was a Gujarat-based gangster, who began his career with gambling and bootlegging. He was arrested in November 1995 by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad and was killed in an alleged fake encounter in November 1997.
The Gujarat HC on Monday issued notice to the legal heirs, kept them returnable for July 20, and further stayed the addition of heirs until July 20.
Mushtaq Sheikh, son of Latif, had filed a defamation suit at the Ahmedabad city civil and sessions court in April 2016, following the release of the trailer for the film ‘Raees’, which is reportedly based on Latif’s life.
The film released on January 26, 2017 and eight defendants were named in the defamation damage suit, namely Red Chillies Entertainment, Shah Rukh Khan, Gauri Khan (proprietor of Red Chillies Entertainment and wife of Shah Rukh Khan), Excel Entertainment, Ritesh Sidhwani, Farhan Akhtar (both proprietors of Excel Entertainment), Rahul Dholakia Production Pvt Ltd and Rahul Dholakia (director of Raees).
Mushtaq in his defamation suit, filed against the film’s producers, director and production companies’ proprietors, alleged “because of the promotional material” performance and promos of the Film “Raees”, the reputation of the plaintiff, his family and also the highly preserved reputation of Late Abdul Latif Abdul Wahab Shaikh was in question.”
The suit and also sought that the court pass an appropriate decree for compensation to the damages of the reputation of Mushtaq to the tune of Rs 101 crores with running interest at 18 per cent per annum, along with permanent injunction to restrain the defendants from releasing the film “Raees” in the theater.
However, Mushtaq died on July 6, 2020, nearly two years ago, and an application was filed by his widow and two daughters to bring them on as plaintiffs in the defamation suit following his demise.
The Ahmedabad court by an order dated April 27 permitted the legal heirs to join as plaintiffs in the suit.
This order of the Ahmedabad court has now been challenged before the Gujarat HC on the ground that “a defamation suit is a personal action and it dies with the person.”
It was submitted before the HC on Monday that the suit filed by Mushtaq, who has died now, cannot be said to be a suit in a representative capacity, and even if so, no permission as required under Rule 8 Order I of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), was obtained.
Order I Rule 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 deals with representative suits. A representative suit is a suit that is filed by one or more persons on behalf of themselves and others having the same interest in the suit.
It was also pointed out that relying on provisions of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the action in damages dies with the person, and therefore, when the suit was filed by Mushtaq alone, no application for bringing heirs as sought to be brought on record could have been granted by the Ahmedabad court.
The Ahmedabad court’s order of April 27 while permitting the legal heirs to join as plaintiffs, had observed that the relevant provision of the Indian Succession Act, would have only held had Latif, on whom the movie was purportedly based, had himself filed the defamation suit, but since that was not the case and it was his son Mushtaq who had filed, “then in that circumstances, if he dies during the pendency of the suit, the circumstances are required to be considered…”
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