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Personality rights from Amitabh Bachchan to Sushant Singh to Anil Kapoor: Indian and Global View Point

The case discussing the posthumous personality rights of Sushant Singh Rajput:

With the passing of the recent judgment in Krishna Kishore Singh Vs. Sarla A Saraogi & Ors., the ambit of personality rights, more specifically ‘posthumous’ personality rights has been narrowed down.

While in various cases, Indian Courts have been proactive in protecting the personality rights of aggrieved celebrities, the law laid down on personality rights in the recent Krishna Kishore Singh’s case (supra) has narrowed down the extent of protection and ambit of such rights.

In Krishna Kishore Singh’s case, the father of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput approached the High Court of Delhi seeking an injunction against the streaming of the movie ‘Nyay: The Justice’ which was based on the life of the late actor and the subsequent police investigation and trial that followed. As per the later actor’s father, the said movie was released without permission from him or the legal representatives of the deceased. The suit sought a decree of permanent injunction, restraining the defendants and all others from using Sushant Singh Rajput’s name, caricature or lifestyle in any projects or films without his prior permission, alleging that any such effort would infringe the personality rights of Sushant Singh Rajput and also, cause deception in the minds of the public.

Interestingly, the Hon’ble Court held that the reliefs sought in the plaint were entirely with respect to Sushant Singh Rajput. The rights that the prayers in the suit seek to protect and the rights of privacy, publicity and personality which vested in Sushant Singh Rajput. It was held that no relief, on any right which vested in him, finds a place in the plaint. The Court further opined that the rights ventilated in the plaint, that is, the right to privacy, the right to publicity and the personality rights which vested in Sushant Singh Rajput, were not heritable. They died with his death. The said rights, therefore, did not survive for espousal by Mr. Kishore.

The Court also opined that the information contained, and shown, in the impugned film, was entirely derived from items that featured in the media and, therefore, constituted publicly available information. In making a film on the basis thereof, it could not, therefore, be said that the filmmakers had violated any right of Sushant Singh Rajput, much less of his father, especially as the said information had not been questioned or challenged when it appeared in the media, either by Sushant Singh Rajput or by his father.

This opinion of the Court is in line with the judgment of the Madras High Court in Deepa Jayakumar vs A.L. Vijay which held that the personality, publicity and privacy rights of an individual come to an end after their lifetime.

The global perspective regarding the enforceability of publicity rights after a person’s death is different in different jurisdictions. For instance, in California and New York, the rights are held to be not heritable and unenforceable after the death of the person but Washington and Indiana jurisdictions hold that publicity rights survive the individual’s death.

Source: Barandbench

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