Speak Asia’s lawsuit against R K Laxman Ki Dunya
“The Common Man” is a character created by R.K. Laxman that features in the cartoon series ‘You Said It’. Laxman was born in 1921 and considered to be India’s greatest ever cartoonist.
For over a half of a century, the Common Man has represented the hopes, aspirations, troubles and perhaps even foibles of the average Indian, through a daily cartoon strip.
‘R K Laxman Ki Dunya’ is a sitcom created by Hats Off Productions based on Laxman’s The Common Man cartoon series.
On the 25th, 26th and 27th of January 2012, three episodes of R K Laxman Ki Dunya were based around a fictional company ‘Silent Asia’.
In keeping with the general humourous theme of the show, the Silent Asia episodes parodied the current events surrounding the Speak Asia scam.
As per a provided summary of the three episode show;
Everybody in rk laxman ki duniya is in a run to make members for silent asia. they all want to make as much commission as possible by making members.
However they all get a shock of their life when they see news on tv that silent asia company is a fraud and they have taken money from all the people in the name of registration.
Bhavesh (a character on the show) calls Ramesh (another character) on his cellphone when they come to know that he has been arrested for taking money of people.
They all come to know that silent asia is not even registered in india and they have done this fraud with many other people. They get a lesson that people should not trust such kind of fraud companies.
Despite no actual explicit references to Speak Asia and the rolling disclaimer at the bottom of each episode which states that the show
is a light-hearted programme intended for entertainment/recreational purposes only.
All events, incidents, scenes of the program are entirely imaginary, fictitious and have no connection whatsoever to reality.
Any resemblance of any nature in the show to any character or person whether dead or alive is a mere co-incidence.
The channel does not intend to hurt, discredit or demean the feelings of any person, caste, community, religion, political party or any section of society,
Speak Asia have decided broadcasting of the episodes has damaged their reputation.
Obviously the disclaimer itself isn’t legally binding but put within the context of the show, it’s clear that the 62 years of success of The Common Man (and presumably R K Laxman Ki Dunya during its shorter production) has enjoyed is due to the series humourous depictions of events, situations and circumstances that affect ‘the common man’.
Furious about being parodied, on the other side of the coin you have Speak Asia. Speak Asia believe that parody constitutes defamation and as such, launched a defamation suit against those responsible for the R K Laxman Ki Dunya TV show.
Filed in the Mumbai High Court on the 30th January and heard on the 1st of February, the first part of the judge’s order is as follows:
1. Leave under Rules 147 and 148 of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay (O.S.) 1980 granted to the plaintiff to take out a notice of motion in terms of the draft notice of motion handed in, returnable forthwith.
The order makes reference to the Rules of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay (Original Side). Specifically, Rule 147 states that
147. Application for interim relief :- The Plaintiff may move the Court ex-parte for interim relief on the ground of urgency and the Court on such application may give leave to serve the Notice of Motion for a particular date and may also, if it shall think fit, grant interim relief on such terms and undertakings as shall seem just.
whilst rule 148 states
148. Undertaking to pay damages to be given by party applying for interim relief:- A party to whom interim relief has been granted shall, before the order is issued, unless the Court otherwise directs, give an undertaking in writing or through his Advocate to pay such sum by way of damages as the Court may award as compensation in the event of a party affected sustaining prejudice by such order.
A bit confusing so here’s a breakdown as I understand it of what the first part of the judge’s orders mean.
Rule 147. mentions ‘ex-parte’ which leads me to believe that Speak Asia originally filed for an ex-parte injunction against the creators of R K Laxman Ki Dunya.
It is noted that the defendants were all represented by council on February the 1st so it’s unclear as to whether or not there was a prior ex-parte hearing in which a judge decided the defendants deserved proper representation, leading to the February 1st hearing.
Regardless, after submitting a draft notice of motion, (demanding a resolution ex-parte), the court appears to have refused to grant Speak Asia any relief and instead given them leave to file a proper notice of motion (a formal case where both parties are represented and heard in a hearing).
Rule 148 refers to the party applying for interim relief to guarantee in writing that they will pay any damages the court orders them to pay the defendant, even if the court ultimately rules in favour of the plaintiff (Speak Asia).
This requirement is needed before a final order can be handed down in the case (which has yet to be heard properly in court).
So why did the judge deny Speak Asia the ex-parte relief it sought?
I believe the answer lies in the second part of the judge’s order:
2. Mr.Menon, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of defendant No.1 states that for at least three weeks i.e. upto 22.2.2012, there will be no re-telecast of the episodes of 25.1.2012, 26.1.2012 and 27.1.2012.
As pointed out by Mr. Menon, there are no scheduled repeat telecasts of the three episodes in question between now and the 22nd of February. With R K Laxman Ki Dunya being a sitcom, and several (non Silent Asia related) episodes having aired since the January 27th episode, it appears episodes are not repeated once they have aired. At least not in the immediate future from their original air date.
Thus Speak Asia’s application for ‘ ex-parte interim relief on the ground of urgency‘ is a bit silly. With no repeats scheduled in the near future, the court decided that, despite Speak Asia’s insistence, the case doesn’t have any urgency at all.
This is only further re-enforced by the fact that the episodes in question (as linked to above) are freely available for review from SAB TV’s official YouTube channel.
In light of the above, the judge has given Speak Asia leave to file a standard notice of motion and submit to the court a written guarantee that it will pay damages to the defendant should the court decide that Speak Asia’s lawsuit warrants so.
If the above conditions are met by Speak Asia, the case is scheduled for a proper first hearing on February 17th, 2012.
Since the hearing on the 1st an affadavit has been filed (on the 3rd February) in connection to the suit but what is in this affadavit and who it was filed by is currently unknown.
Speak Asia are currently seeking to legalize the ponzi schemes through various lawsuits it’s involved in, currently being heard in the Indian legal system. Will the company manage to make parody of current events in the public interest illegal in India too?
Update February 19th 2012 – Not sure what happened but the hearing scheduled for the 17th February that may or may not have taken place.
The case has been given a new hearing date on the 22nd February and as of yet no order has been published to indicate if a hearing happened on the 17th.