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Shilpa S. Shetty v. Magna Publications Co. Ltd. & Ors.

Shilpa S. Shetty v. Magna Publications Co. Ltd. & Ors.

AIR 2001 Bom 176

Brief Facts:

  • Plaintiff was a film actress. Defendant No.1 was a publishing house. Defendant No. 2, director of the Defendant No.1 and Defendant No. 3 editor of a Film Journal published by Defendant No. 1 titled “Stardust”. Defendant No 4 was the contributor of that Journal.
  • In October, 2000, Plaintiff gave an interview to Defendant No. 1 explaining her version of her break up with a fellow actor.
  • In the same issue, an interview of the fellow actor was published giving his version.
  • In November and December, 2000 and January, 2001 Defendant No. 1 published ‘three articles’. (One Article a Month)
  • The grievance of the Plaintiff was that the ‘three articles’ are defamatory to the Plaintiff’s reputation and character.
  • Plaintiff filed the present seeking an injunction from publication of such articles akin to the ‘three articles’ in future.

The present order is on the adjudication on motion for interim relief sought by the Plaintiff before the Learned Single Judge of the High Court of Bombay.


(Image Credits: Bollywood Hungama, License at: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shilpa_Shetty_at_the_Wellfest_awards_2018_(19).jpg)

Plaintiff’s Contentions in Opening:

  • In Article 1 (Exhibit A), of November, 2000, it is stated that Plaintiff developed a clandestine affair with another actor so much so that she attempted to break-up his relationship with another actress.
  • In Article 2 (Exhibit B), of December, 2000, after referring to the alleged relationship with the two actors in bold letters, a question is asked “After all. only men qualify as womanisers. Nobody refers to a woman who changes companions as a ‘maniser’. right?”
  • In Article 3 (Exhibit C), of January, 2001, there was a Caption “Scoop of the mouth Shilpa’s involvement with a married man”
  • These articles bring down the reputation of the Plaintiff and are thus defamatory and scandalous.

Defendants’ Contentions:

  • The situation contemplated in the ‘three articles’ was brought about by the Plaintiff herself in the article of October, 2000 and she cannot make grievance about it.
  • In Woodward v. Hutchins, it was laid down that those who seek and welcome publicity of every kind bearing upon their private lives so long as it shows them in a favourable light, are in no position to complain of an Invasion of their privacy by publicity which shows them in an unfavourable light.
  • Admittedly in the October Issue of Stardust the Plaintiff had given interview against the concerned actor. It is then the reaction of the concerned actor was printed in October Issue and then the disputed articles followed.
  • Once the Plaintiff opened her personal life for comments, she could not prevent any comments being made by the Defendants or others at large and one must take the rough with the smooth.
  • In Seymour v. Butterworth[1], it is stated that: “Those who fill a public position must not be too thin skinned in reference is comments made upon them. It would often happen that observations would be made upon public men which they know from the bottom of their hearts were undeserved and injust; yet they must bear with them and submit to be misunderstood for a time”.
  • In Narrotamdas L. Shah v. Patel Maganbhai Revabhai[2], Hon’ble Court had observed in paragraph 21 that: “character is what a person “actually is”, while reputation is what neighbours and others say “what he is” …..It’s the estimation in which a person is held by others and not the opinion which he himself may have about himself.”
  • It is the opinion of others about the Plaintiff which is relevant and she having herself permitted to write about her personal life, now she cannot make a grievance of anything being printed against her. This conduct should disentitle the Plaintiff from claiming the relief which she has claimed.
  • If an injunction was to be granted it has to be granted against republishing those very articles but not a general injunction against any defamatory statement in future. Such an injunction would be vague and wide.

Plaintiff’s Contentions in Rejoinder:

  • In Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. and another v. M/s. Magna Publishing Co. [3] the injunction was against any article which showed the Plaintiffs therein selling and/or transferring ownership and control of Indian Express and the other publication to Rupert Murdoch including the impugned article in that suit. Such an order should be passed in the present suit as well.
  • Injunction granted in the Indian Express case (Supra) was not confined to republishing the disputed article but was against printing and publishing any article making such allegation and in that sense it was a wider one

Court’s Observations:

  • It is true that the Plaintiff did write her article or gave interview first against another actor and therefore, the journal cannot be criticized for printing the reaction of the concerned actor to her interview. The question is whether the Defendants were entitled to write anything thereafter particularly about her personal life. The answer will have to be in the negative. The articles are not on Plaintiff’s performance as an artist and cannot be defended as a part of film journalism. The articles bring down the reputation of the Plaintiff and have the impact on her personal life and show her in an undesirable manner to the world at large.
  • In Woodward v. Hutchins (supra), injunction was denied as the public interest warranted disclosure of information in that cases. It has been observed in that case that: “In these cases of confidential information it is a question of balancing the public interest in maintaining the confidence against the public interest in knowing the truth”.
  • What one has to see is whether it is in public interest in the sense that whether it is the interest of society that such articles ought to be printed about the private life. The answer will have to be in the negative.

Operative Part

Considering the Indian Express (supra) decision and submissions of the counsel for Defendants, the Hon’ble Court restraine the Sefendants from republishing the three articles and/or from writing and publishing any defamatory article in the nature of the three articles (which were disputed in the present suit) alleging that the Plaintiff is having relationship with other actors or a married man, till the disposal of the suit.

The decision was appealed before the Division Bench of the High Court of Bombay. The Appellate Court did not interfere with the decision. The decision of the Appellate Court was challenged before the Supreme Court, which, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, did not interfere with the decision.[4]

[1]  [1862] 176 ER 166

[2] 1984 CriLJ 1790

[3]  21st July 1995

[4] Magna Publications Co. Ltd. and Others v. Shilpa S. Shetty; AIR 2008 SC 681

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