Kerala HC Dismisses the Writ Petition Banning the Telecast of the TV Series “Koodathai: The Game of Death”

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On 7 August, Kerala high court dismisses the Writ Petition filed by the neighbour of Pannamattam family in Koodathai for banning the telecast of the TV series “Koodathai: The Game of Death.

Facts fo the Case

On January 13, Flowers TV channel started airing the series titled Koodathai: The Game of Death, which incidentally is the place in Kozhikode district in Kerala, where the crime which was masterminded by Jolly Thomas, 47-year-old age, who used cyanide to eliminate six people, took place. The deceased were: Tom Thomas, his wife Annamma, son Roy Thomas, relative Sily, her daughter Alpine and Annamma’s brother Mathew.

The District Police Chief filed a counter-affidavit stating that no legal steps banning the TV serial could have been taken since he is not empowered by any statute or order of the State Government to take preventive measures against the telecast of TV serials based on the fictions forming the subject matter of crimes, in which a complaint was filed by the petitioner.

Just before the series was to appear on Flowers TV, the Kerala High Court refused to stay the series. But the court granted a stay on airing the series after a witness in the case, Mohammed, wanted such a step as the case is being probed and that airing of the series would affect the prob. The petitioner and his mother are a close neighbour of Pannamattam family in Koodathai and are also key witnesses in the murder cases. The investigation in all the six crimes was completed and final reports were also submitted before the concerned courts.

As the telecast of the TV series, “Koodathai: The Game of Death” has already started since January 13th, it was alleged that the story and characters in the serial closely resemble the real persons and incidents in spite of efforts taken to hush them up by making minor changes in the place of incident and names of the characters. It was also stated that mere disclaimer published in each of the episodes is only a camouflage as well as a conscious attempt made for escaping from the legal liability. It was also contended that the public is sure to carry an impression that they are viewing the real incidents in the above crimes irrespective of the presentation being in the form of a creative fiction enacted by the composer exercising his freedom of expression.

Petitioner’s Argument

The petitioner argued that the respondent (the State of Kerala, Director General of Police, District Police Chief) who has the legal obligation to protect the rights of the petitioner, have failed in their legal duties and was seeking for the issue of a Writ of mandamus or such other appropriate direction. The petitioner also argued that the respondent (Flowers TV, R.Sreekandan Nair, Gireesh Konni) have no right to telecast the TV serial resembling the subject matter of the crimes until the trail of the cases is concluded and judgment pronounced. They also argued that this telecast will affect their reputation and right of privacy and also will influence them in many ways and prejudice the interest of prosecution and thereby affect the result of the criminal case.

Defendant’s Argument

The respondent argued that the Writ Petition was not maintainable under the law and it was an abuse of the process of the court as well as abuse of constitutional public law remedy and the writ was filed immediately the next day after forwarding of email complaint to them (District Police Chief) without giving sufficient time for authorities to act upon the request. They also argued that the Writ of mandamus cannot lie against them as they don’t have a legal or statutory obligation for banning the telecast.

The respondent (Flowers TV, R.Sreekandan Nair, and Gireesh Konni) argued that the series is a creative fiction produced by them in the exercise of their constitutional right conferred by Article 19(1) (e) of the Constitution of India. They also argued that the content has no connection with the subject matter of the crimes and will not infringe the reputation or the right to privacy of the petitioner and the content of the series have no tendency to affect the fair trial of the case and thereby interfere with the administration of justice amounting to contempt of court.

Court’s Order

Hearing both sides the court said Writ of mandamus could not lay against a public authority for the performance of an act unless the authority is enjoined by law, whether it be a statute, government order or precedents, obligating it to perform the act in question. The Writ petition was filed and was dismissed.


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