Monday, February 15, 2010

Can UTV Bindass be sued for "Emotional Atyachar"?

On flipping channel I recently found a show called "Emotional Atyachar" on UTV Bindass. The main objective of the show is to test if your partner is loyal to you or not. The show reminded me of the "Cheaters" thats aired on CW Plus. In Cheaters, a person can ask the show people to see if their partner is cheating or not. The crew would then follow the "suspected cheater" like a detective armed with cameras and video recorders. On finding that a partner is cheating, the crew allows the couple to confront each other. The whole episode is then shown on the television.

However, "Emotional Atyachar" is significantly different than "Cheaters". While Cheaters passively monitored the suspect, "Emotional Atyachar" will inject real people to allure the suspect to cheat. So "Emotional Atyachar" is not looking if a person is cheating but whether the person can possibly cheat.

The question I want to address is whether "UTV Bindass is liable for damages to an individual personal life or be criminally prosecuted". On searching through the Internet I found that there is a speculation that the whole serial is staged and no "real" life is getting affected. If that is the case then it is not a reality tv and there is no issue of suing as no one is getting hurt. If we do not believe in the speculation then the question is very serious. UTV can be sued for damages or the head of UTV Bindass may go to jail depending on how the laws are applied.

Apart from the ethical issue, there are two main legal issues involved:

1. Is UTV violating Indian broadcasting laws by airing obscene material or by denigrating women? - This is a much broader question which I am not interested to analyze.

2. Is UTV Bindass cheating the suspect by alluring him or her with pre-meditated objective?

The defintion of cheating is in Section 415 in The Indian Penal Code. It reads as:

Cheating.-- Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to ....(snipped).... intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to" cheat".

And the punishment of cheating is in Section 417 in The Indian Penal Code:

Punishment for cheating.- Whoever cheats shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

While sting operation to expose truth in public interest is protected under freedom of speech and expression (Sri Bharadwaaj Media Pvt. Ltd. vs State on 27 November, 2007), the sting operation may not get a blanket protection.

So the final question for "Emotional Atyachar" is whether the person would have acted in that fashion if the allurement was not given.

I have heard that "emotional atyachar" gets permission from the suspect before releasing the video. However, if the person refuses to sign the agreement, he or she can take UTV Bindass to court and test the law.