On Monday, the Supreme Court said that it will not reopen the criminal case against Shah Rukh Khan for his alleged involvement in inciting a melee at the Vadodara train station in 2017 while promoting his movie, Raees, in which a man had died of a heart attack. The court ruled that celebrities are entitled to the same legal protections as ordinary people and hence cannot be held vicariously liable.
In what way was Khan at fault? Just because someone is renowned doesn’t mean they don’t have rights, the bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravi Kumar said in upholding the Gujarat high court verdict that dismissed the actor’s criminal case in April.
The court ruled that Khan could not be held liable for anyone’s safety on the train or make a personal guarantee. Riders of the rails can’t rest easy knowing their safety is guaranteed. It emphasised the fact that a celebrity has the same rights as any other citizen of the United States.
The judges went on, saying, “He (Khan) is a star, but that doesn’t mean he can govern everyone else.” The time and energy of this court is better spent on matters of greater importance.
Shah Rukh Khan was defended in court by a team from Karanjawala & Co. lead by senior counsel Sidharth Luthra.
An enthusiastic crowd waited at the Vadodara train station on January 23, 2017, to welcome Khan and the August Kranti Express as he travelled through the region to promote the film.
An area lawmaker named Farheed Khan Pathan suffered a heart attack due to the stampede-like conditions at the train station caused by fans of the actor’s arrival. Some people were harmed when Khan threw “smiley balls” and “t-shirts” at the crowd as part of the campaign.
A Congressman named Jitendra Solanki filed a complaint that led to a FIR being filed against Khan, and the actor was subsequently called into court in Vadodara.
The local court issued Khan a summons after deciding there was enough evidence to proceed with the case under sections 336, 337, and 338 of the Indian Penal Code for activities that endangered the lives or personal safety of others and resulting in simple and severe harm to them.
However, in April of this year, the high court ruled that neither Khan nor his acts could be held criminally accountable for the incident, and hence they dismissed the criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the highest court emphasised that Khan had official permission from the executive branch to publicise the meeting.
Solanki’s attorney claimed at the Monday hearing that criminal law had been “turned upside down” because the high court had downplayed the allegations against Khan, despite acknowledging that the actor had been irresponsible.
The judge, however, questioned Solanki’s “personal interest” in persistently pursuing the matter and told him to put it on pause. The bench ruled against him, saying a summary of the case was in order.