NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court Wednesday decided to know the stand of real life ex air force pilot Gunjan Saxena, on the controversy surrounding the release of a film based on her called ''Gunjan Saxena - The Kargil Girl.’
HC issued notice to Saxena on a suit filed by the Centre and
Indian Air Force
that the movie streaming on Netflix, depicts IAF in poor light and dents its reputation by portraying it as gender biased.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher said that Saxena, a former Flight Lieutenant, should also be made a party to the suit but refused to stay the film at this stage, as it was released on August 12.
It asked the Centre why it did not approach the court before the release of the movie on the Over The Top (OTT) platform, and said an injunction cannot be granted now as the film is already streaming. HC listed the matter for next hearing on September 18 while asking the Centre to take charge and remove IAF from the memo of parties, saying the government can itself pursue the case.
Additional Solicitor General
Sanjay Jain (ASG) and central government standing counsel Gaurang Kant, representing the Centre, submitted that the movie shows IAF in poor light as if the force is gender biased.
“In the India Air force, we give the highest regards to women. We have been made a subject matter of ridicule even for countries with whom we are not having friendly relations. IAF’s image has been dented,” the ASG contended, seeking an injunction against streaming of the film or broadcast in theatres, saying it is a continuing cause of action as the movie was released without grant of no-objection certificate (NOC) from it.
Jain argued that the picture was never shown to the preview committee, set up in accordance with the Ministry of Defence’s 2013 guidelines, NOC was not taken from the Centre of IAF, objections flagged by them were ignored and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoC) was not signed.
HC also issued notices to
Private Limited, which produced the film, its
director Karan Yash Johar
, Zee Entertainment, director of the movie Sharan Sharma, Netflix, and also sought response of the parties on the interim application seeking interim injunction to remove the movie from all OTT platforms.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Gopal Subramanium appeared for Dharma Productions and Zee studios and opposed the suit, arguing that Centre’s plea is devoid of basic particulars.
“The movie starts by saying that it is inspired by the story of... I saw the movie yesterday and IAF comes out in glory. There is no organisation which does not have gender issues. Anything said in criticism is not slander. Haven't we seen it (gender bias) in our profession? You can't pick four scenes and say slander. A letter (from the Chief of Staff) does not curtail free speech,” Salve submitted.
Senior advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Amit Sibal, representing Netflix, maintained that the script of the movie was shared with the IAF in 2018 and the film was shown to them in February.
The Centre, in the suit, said the IAF believes in gender equality and has always ensured a healthy working environment for all its officials, uninfluenced by their gender, caste, region, and religion and it has always provided equal opportunities to the meritorious officers. “In August 1966, Flight Lieutenant Kanta Handa, an IAF medical officer, became the first female IAF officer to receive a commendation for her service during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war...Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena and Flight Lieutenant Sreevidya Rajan were among the first woman to fly in a combat zone during Kargil War. In 2012, Flight Lieutenant Nivedita Choudhary became the first woman from the IAF to summit
,” it said.