Case Study: Shah Rukh Khan vs State Of Rajasthan & Ors

By Mohammad Adil Ansari 4 Minutes Read

Case Citation:

  • Reference: Shah Rukh Khan vs State Of Rajasthan And Ors.
  • Court: Rajasthan High Court
  • Date of Judgment: 20 August 2007
  • Equivalent Citations: RLW 2008 (1) Raj 809
  • Judge: R.S. Chauhan J.

Background:

This case involves a dialogue in the movie “Ram Jaane,” leading Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to challenge an order by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate No. 1 Kota. The order had rejected his application for discharge from alleged criminal offenses.

Facts:

  • Movie: Ram Jaane (1996), directed by Rajiv Mehra.
  • Context: In a courtroom scene, the protagonist (played by Khan) criticizes a lawyer for defending him despite knowing his guilt, suggesting moral corruption in the legal profession.
  • Legal Proceedings: Respondents (lawyers) felt defamed by the dialogue and filed a criminal complaint against Shah Rukh Khan and others associated with the movie, alleging defamation and criminal conspiracy under Sections 500, 501, and 120-B of the IPC.

Key Legal Contentions:

  • Defense Argument:
    1. No malicious intent: The actor was merely performing a script.
    2. Defamation requires specific, identifiable targets, not a general class.
    3. Protection under Cinematograph Act, 1952 for certified films.
    4. The right to free speech under Article 19(1) of the Constitution.
  • Plaintiff Argument:
    1. The dialogue was defamatory per se.
    2. Lawyers as a class are identifiable for the purpose of defamation.
    3. The film’s certification does not protect against defamation charges.
    4. Fundamental rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.

Judgment:

  • Main Points:
    1. No Vested Right in a Scripted Dialogue: The court recognized that an actor, while performing, does not express personal opinions but portrays a character. This distinction is crucial in determining the absence of intentional defamation.
    2. Defamation of a Class: The judgment addressed the complexity of defaming a class, requiring a definable and specific target, which was not met in this case.
    3. Protection under Cinematograph Act: The court clarified that the Act’s protection against obscenity does not extend to defamation.
    4. Freedom of Expression: The court upheld the right to freedom of expression, emphasizing its importance for creative arts like cinema.
  • Outcome: The High Court discharged the petitioner (Shah Rukh Khan), emphasizing the lack of defamatory intent and the significance of artistic freedom.

Legal Principles and Statutes Referenced:

  1. Indian Penal Code, Sections 499 (Defamation), 500, 501, 120-B.
  2. Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  3. Constitution of India, Article 19(1) – Freedom of Speech and Expression.

Significance:

This case underscores the delicate balance between freedom of expression in creative arts and the boundaries of defamation law. It highlights the judiciary’s role in safeguarding artistic expression while respecting individual reputations.

Related Articles for Further Reading:

  • “Exploring the Boundaries of Artistic Freedom in Indian Cinema”
  • “Defamation Law in India: Balancing Individual Reputation and Free Speech”
  • “The Role of Censorship and Certification in Film Industry”
Mohammad Adil Ansari

Founding Member & Editor in Chief @LegalWires.

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