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The Delhi High Court today gave its go-ahead to the release of John Abraham starer ‘Batla House’ on August 15, subject to certain modifications in the film.
The Order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru in a petition by the two accused persons, Ariz Khan and Shehzad Ahmed in the encounter operation conducted in September 2008 in Batla House locality in Jamia Nagar, Delhi.
The petitioners had sought to postpone the release of the film till the trial against them is pending.
While the trial against Ariz Khan is pending before a Delhi Court, Shehzad Ahmed’s appeal against his conviction is pending before the Delhi High Court.
The petitioners were afforded the opportunity to watch the film last week.
The Court has directed the makers of Batla House to carry the following modifications in the film to address concerns of a fair trial raised by the petitioners and other accused in the Batla House encounter:
The petitioners had moved the Court earlier this month, alleging that the makers of the film “willfully and deliberately” ignored the pending legal processes and portrayed definitive account and findings surrounding the Batla House encounter, thus affecting the accused persons’ right to free and fair trial.
The petitioners submitted that although the courts discharge their duty in a fair and free manner and are not likely to be influenced by a movie, a movie claiming to be “inspired by true events” was likely to cause prejudice to the trial and appeal.
The filmmakers defended Batla House on the ground that the film posed no direct and immediate threat to a fair trial in the pending cases.
The Court was informed that a major part of the movie, approximately 85 minutes, was dedicated to the personal life of the protagonist and an honest attempt was made to show the narrative of the Delhi Police as well the accused persons in the film.
It was further argued that any infinite embargo on the release of the film when the trial against one petitioner has already resulted in a conviction, would have a chilling effect on the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a).
After detailed arguments in the case, the parties proposed amendments to film to reach a middle ground.
Thus in a “balancing act”, the petition was disposed of the Court by passing a consent order.
The petitioners were represented by Advocates Nitya Ramakrishnan, Warisha Farasat, Rudrakshi Deo, Jahnavi Sindhu, Shruti Narayan and Hafsa Khan.
Senior Advocate Neeraj Krishna Kaul, briefed by Harshvardhan Jha, Naik Naik & Company and DSK Legal , appeared for the film makers.