The Karnataka High Court last week granted partial relief to Latha Rajnikanth, wife of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, in a financial dispute case filed by an advertising company over payments for the 2014 film Kochadaiiyaan, which failed at the box office.
The high court ordered the quashing of criminal charges for cheating, false evidence and false statement brought against Latha Rajinikanth by the Bengaluru police in a chargesheet which was taken cognisance of by a magistrate court on March 27, 2021. It, however, allowed the prosecution of the case to proceed on charges of forgery.
The criminal case against Latha Rajinikanth arose out of a dispute over financial dues payable by the wife of the superstar to the film production house Mediaone Global Entertainment Ltd for Kochadaiiyaan, which was directed by Rajinikanth’s daughter Soundarya Rajinikanth.
During the financial dispute, Latha Rajinikanth sought a gag order from a Bengaluru court on the reporting of the issue in the media by citing a letter issued by an allegedly non-existent organisation called The Publishers and Broadcasters Welfare Association based out of the Press Club of Bengaluru.
A complaint of cheating and forgery was ordered to be registered against Latha Rajinikanth by a Bengaluru court after the matter of the use of a letter from a non-existent organisation to obtain court orders was raised in a private court complaint by a firm called Ad Bureau Advertising Private Ltd. The private complaint resulted in the filing of a first information report (FIR).
The filing of the FIR in 2015 over the issue was challenged in the Karnataka High Court by Latha Rajinikanth and the case was quashed by the court but it was revived by orders of the Supreme Court. The Ulsoor Gate police in Bengaluru subsequently investigated the case and filed a chargesheet which was taken cognisance of by a local magistrate’s court on March 27, 2021.
Following the move by the magistrate’s court to take cognisance of the chargesheet to begin the trial of the case, Latha Rajinikanth approached the Karnataka High Court over the charges brought against her.
In an order passed last week, Justice M Nagaprasanna of Karnataka High Court “allowed in part” the plea by Latha Rajnikanth against the chargesheet filed by the police. The court quashed the order of the magistrate for taking cognisance of offences under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 196 (false evidence), 199 (false statement), and 420 (cheating).
“The order of the learned magistrate in so far as he takes cognisance for the offence under Section 463 (forgery) as punishable under Section 465 of the IPC stands sustained,” the high court said. “The learned magistrate is at liberty to take further proceedings in the case for the sustained offence, and dispose of the matter in accordance with the law,” it added.
The cheating charge was ordered to be dropped by the high court because “there should be inducement from the hands of the accused to the victim to part with any property and the transaction should be tainted with dishonest intention right from its outset” which was not evident in the case.
“Therefore, the allegation for the offence punishable under Section 420 of the IPC has been recklessly included without there being any foundation laid in the complaint,” the high court said.
The high court, however, did not find grounds to interfere with the charges of forgery in the case. “Therefore, the allegation under Section 463 of the IPC so made against the petitioner and the cognisance taken by the learned magistrate only insofar as it concerns Section 463 of the IPC cannot be interfered with,” it said.