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By Mahek Choudhury

Intern, Vidhi Parivartan

Movies based on criminals and crime have always been the center of attraction for audiences. Naturally, controversies based on such movies are bound to happen. One such movie is Dulquer Salmaan’s ‘Kurup’ which is more famous for its controversy than the actual plot. This movie was released on 12th November 2021 and caught public attention for being allegedly based on the real-life story of Sukumara Kurup, the notorious killer known for murdering a man named ‘Chacko’ in an attempt to fake his death and claiming life insurance worth 8 lakhs in 1984.

This Malayalam film was dragged to court with accusations that it infringed the privacy rights of the killer, that is, Sukumara Kurup. Kurup to claim insurance murdered an NRI by offering him a lift when he was waiting for a late-night bus at Karuvatta in the Alappuzha district. Kurup along with his driver Ponnappan and brother-in-law Bhaskara Pillai murdered Chacko by killing him and setting fire to his ambassador’s car. The two other accomplices were caught and awarded jail sentences but Kurup was never caught.

The controversy arose after the release of the filmwhen the petitioners filed a writ of Mandamusseeking the right to privacy for ‘Proclaimed offenders’ under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. According to the petitioners, the State Government was the custodian of the property of the proclaimed offenders and is, therefore, duty-bound to protect his right to privacy. The petitioners also argued that the right of proclaimed offenders are vested with the government till they are proclaimed offenders so the publication of the movie ought to be prevented since “it is a clear violation of the fundamental right of the underprivileged section of the State.”

The Kerala High Court dismissed the PIL filed by the petitioner’s advocate on 11th April. The Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Murali Purushothaman observed that even though the movie is inspired by the real-life story of the proclaimed offender, it is not, however, based on the complete life story of that person, so, the publication of the same will not affect the right of privacy of the offender.

The respondents argued that CFBC certification has been issued and the concerned authority has taken into consideration all the issues surrounding the movie and has found it fit for certification.

It was also submitted by the respondents that the film is fiction and not a documentary, in fact, the names of the real-life offenders and victims were also changed and a disclaimer was also issued at the beginning of the movie.

Further, it was contended by the respondents that the privacy right of the offender cannot be infringed since the person has been evading the process of law for several years. The right to privacy of the proclaimed offender is not violated since the proclamation under Section 82, CrPc was pending against him, so, the information about him is known to the entire public.

To build up a solid argument, the respondents also raised the issue that the petitioners had raised the grievance based on certain articles published on the website of the Hindu newspaper and also on the basis of the information available on Wikipedia. The respondents, on their part, stated that there was no official confirmation from the producers of the film.

The Court also took into consideration that neither the proclaimed offender nor his family member has claimed that movie completely depicts the real-life story of the offender and violates his right to privacy.

After due consideration and examination of the material on record, the court held that the petitioner, who is also the third party, has not made out a proper case.

As a result, the writ petition was dismissed.

Case law- Sebin Thomas v. Union of India & Ors.

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