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Legal Trouble for Netflix's Bad Boy Billionaires: India

Netflix was set to release the upcoming series Bad Boy Billionaire on September 2. After Subrata Roy filled petition, Bihar’s Araria local court has passed an interim stay order on its broadcasting.

Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy, Nirav Modi and Ramlinga Raju (Source: Netflix India)

“This investigative docuseries explores the greed, fraud, and corruption that built up — and ultimately brought down — India’s most infamous tycoons." – Description of Bad Boy Billionaires: India on Netflix.

The interim order was communicated on August 28. Following the orders of the court, Netflix removed the trailer of the docuseries off their website. The only trailer of the series that remains on YouTube was posted by a fan. The court is awaiting for Netflix counsel to discuss the matter and decide further actions by hearing both the parties.

The local court of Bihar's Araria stated, "the considered view that the plaintiff (Roy) has qualified tripartite test of (a) prima facie case, balance of convenience and irreparable loss and grant of ad interim injunction in its favour as such the defendants including their employees, directors, officers, associates or any person or entity acting on their behalf or under their authority are restrained from releasing transmitting, distributing, exhibiting, performing or communicating to the public by any means or technology by audio or video performance of the impugned trailer and series of Bad Boy Billionaires using the name of Subrata Roy till the appearance of the defendant and filing show cause."

Roy’s petition is followed by plea of Mehul Choksi, who is an accused in the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, for pre-screening the series before it broadcasts, which was rejected on the same day. “In my opinion, a writ petition for enforcement of a private is not maintainable. The appropriate remedy would be civil suit as the alleged infringement is of a private right. The petition is dismissed. The petitioner is at liberty to raise the issue in a private civil suit,” said Justice Chawla who had rejected the petition. Netflix claimed that there is not episode on Choksi and he received the screen time of 2 minutes. Neeraj Kishan Kaul, the counsel of Netflix, agreed to Choksi’s plea to preview before the court but categorically denied to give a preview to Choksi.

The documentary features Indian fugitive businessmen including Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy, Nirav Modi and Ramalinga Raju, who have been involved in money laundering and committed frauds. While Roy’s counsel, Vivek Jha, said that posing Roy alongside such fugitives will not only tarnish his image, or as he called “character assassination”, it will also have dire effects on Roy’s enterprise, Sahara Group, Choksi’s advocate Vijay Aggarwal stated, “excessive publicity prejudices with legal proceedings and will adversely impact Choksi’s trial.” He further said, “the hunger of Netflix to remain unregulated needs to be regulated. Till the time the Union of India regulates OTT platforms, aggrieved individuals have to approach the court.”

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) opposed Choksi’s plea saying, “freedom of speech and expression is cardinal and should be given full play.” The ministry also pointed out that unless content of over-the-top platforms clashes with national security, it does not regulate it.

Kaul claimed that it would not affect his trial. He considered the petition a “gross abuse” saying, “Should an absconder be allowed to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction of the court?” He also added that the idea of free speech is killed by such pre-censorships.

It was alleged by Subrata Roy that in 2019, a London based director approached him a pre-requisite of a web feature that will be made on Roy’s life. Roy further added that the web feature was supposed to be titled “Billionaires”.

So far, it is said that owing to Choksi’s plea the trailer might be edited. Roy’s episode might be dropped if the stay perpetuates. However, there has been no official statement from Netflix on this regard. It is also alleged that Netflix might knock the door of Supreme Court this week.

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