SC upholds Guj HC order quashing complaint against SRK in 2017 stampede case


Shah Rukh Khan. File photo | Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Celebrities also have rights like common citizens and cannot be made "vicariously culpable", the Supreme Court observed on Monday while upholding the Gujarat HC decision quashing a criminal case against superstar Shah Rukh Khan and others for causing a stampede at the Vadodara Railway station while promoting a film in 2017.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar dismissed the appeal filed by Jitendra Madhubhai Solanki alias Pappu, who had challenged the decision of the Gujarat High Court dated April 27, 2022.

"Celebrities have rights like all other citizens and cannot be made vicariously culpable. What was the fault of this man (Khan)? Just because he is a celebrity, it doesn't mean he has no rights," the bench said, adding it is not inclined to interfere with the order of the high court.

Solanki had alleged in the complaint that Khan was promoting his film 'Raees' during the journey from Mumbai to New Delhi by 'August Kranti Rajdhani Express' on January 23, 2017 without taking prior permission of the railway authorities. He had claimed Khan threw 'smiley balls' and 'T-shirts' into the crowd at Vadodara station triggering a scuffle and stampede in which some people were injured and a few fell unconscious.

The apex court said the actor cannot be expected to ensure everyone's safety or provide personal guarantee while travelling by train.

Senior advocate Vijay Kumar, appearing for Solanki, said the high court had erred in its finding and quashing the case against the respondent (Shah Rukh Khan and others).

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who represented Khan along with advocate Ruby Singh Ahuja, and advocate Sandeep Kapur from law firm Karanjawala and company contended the high court had rightly quashed the case and passed a detailed verdict after dealing with all the aspects.

"He (Khan) is a celebrity but that doesn't mean he can control everyone else. Let's focus on more important subjects that deserve attention and time of the court," the judges observed.

The high court had said in its order: "Insofar as offences under the Indian Penal Code are concerned,...the allegations made in the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, in the considered opinion of this Court do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against petitioner (Shah Rukh Khan)".

It had said the act on part of the actor, during the promotion of his film, cannot be termed to be so grossly negligent or reckless, neither could an act on part of Khan be treated as the proximate and efficient cause of the unruly incidents at the railway station.

"Thus in the considered opinion of this Court , the allegations made in the complaint even if they are not controverted and furthermore, the evidence collected in support of the uncontroverted allegations do not disclose commission of an offence", the high court had said in the order, adding the actor was promoting his film after obtaining permission from the authorities concerned.

It noted the alleged incidents happened as a result of culmination of many causes of which one may have been the act on part of the petitioner of having thrown 'smiley balls' and 'T shirts' into the crowd.

"...Out of thousands of persons present in the Railway Station on the date of the incident including police personnel and railway staff, none of the persons who might have been injured on account of the incident or even witnessed the incident had complained about the same," the HC had said and quashed the complaint pending before Judicial Magistrate First Class, Vadodara.

Solanki, had initially submitted a complaint at Railway Police Station, Sayajiganj, Vadodara inter alia praying for registration of an FIR against Khan.

Upon receiving no response from the police authorities, Solanki preferred a private complaint against Khan and others before the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Vadodara.

PTI

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