Updated: August 23, 2021 9:11:42 pm
The Bombay High Court, while hearing a plea filed by Sony Pictures seeking quashing of an FIR against them over web series “Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta story”, stayed the investigation by Pune Police for three weeks.
A criminal defamation case was registered by Karad Urban Co-operative Bank (KUCB) in Pune this July in this connection.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar stayed the probe pending the hearing of pleas by Sony Pictures and Sameer Nair, CEO of Applause Entertainment Pvt Limited, which produced the web series.
The bank in its FIR against Sony Pictures Network India Pvt Ltd, the owner of SonyLIV application, alleged that in the third episode of the web series, a logo was displayed in the background that “resembles” its trademark, thereby causing serious damage to its “financial, commercial and social reputation”.
The petitioner network said the FIR was registered with “ulterior motives” and that it was merely broadcasting a series that was owned and produced by Applause Entertainment, and it was a cinematic adaptation of the book, “The Scam: Who Won, Who Lost, Who Got Away”.
It added: “‘Bank of Karaj’, as shown in the series, was a pseudonym for Bank of Karad and their alleged involvement in the scam was in the public domain and confirmed by the Reserve Bank of India. There was no intention or conspiracy, as is being hinted at, to malign the name of the respondent bank.”
Senior Counsel Shirish Gupte for Sony Pictures said the offence registered under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC is non-cognisable and cannot be investigated on the basis of an FIR by an inspector without the magistrate’s permission.
Additional Public Prosecutor J P Yagnik said he will reflect over the submissions made by petitioners and also grounds taken in petitions and take instructions from officials. Advocate Shekhar Jagtap for the respondent bank sought time to file an affidavit in reply to the pleas.
The bench asked the cops to take corrective steps. “How can you continue with the investigation till then? We are granting ad-interim relief and staying investigation,” the HC said.
The HC stayed the probe for three weeks and noted, “We prima facie find force in submission of the petitioner that offence under Section 500 IPC cannot be investigated by police. At this stage, it is not necessary to give elaborate reasons. Investigation cannot be continued further for legal impediment.”
The bench will hear the pleas next on September 17.
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