Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul suspended: Should Karan Johar and Star World share blame for the misogynistic remarks?

Bikram Vohra

January 12, 2019 20:50:50 IST

As the cricketers' controversy dies down a bit, one is more inclined to ask if the anchor of a show or the moderator responsible for the content and, by that logical progression, the channel concerned must share the fallout of the controversial speech and action projected over the air waves.

Legally, one might concede that players Hardik Pandya and CL Rahul cannot pass the buck. They are adults, not children and should have been smart enough to be aware of the consequences. But TV can be a dangerous medium and very invasive and nerve-wracking for the uninitiated.

File image of Karan Johar.

File image of Karan Johar.

One of the stress factors of being taped is to babble mindlessly. People tend to be amped-up and nervous. In this case, if the moderator spiced up his show with slippery and clever silver-tongued intimidation and verbally trapped his guest, do we have a case of abetment or at least being accessories?

Two points arise and need to be addressed. If the show was recorded and not live, was the reference to context spliced, cut, edited in any way to make it more provocative and impactful so that TRPs were affected and the ‘spice’ generated deliberately?

In that case, a commercial dimension is added to the decision and that is grounds for culpability because the statements, crass as they are, would have been engineered.

In that case, both Karan Johar and Star World should share accountability for offending. While a live feed would have offered an escape route, a recording that is probably passed by the legal department before being aired does not. You sculpted it and added special effects like close-ups.

That puts you on the mat.

After all, you would have bleeped out cuss words, dropped anything suggestive of nudity or sexual deviation, so this ‘playing’ with an ‘amateur’ professional cricketer making his debut could be seen as collaborative.

By this token, the subject of the outrage is the objectification of women as reflected in the male chauvinist answers. Now, propriety and the marketing of social negatives does create a moral impasse. In propelling the issue and allowing an individual to be conned into behaving foolishly does not relieve the channel of its moral duty. You charmed, bullied, exploited an individual by questioning him on the sensitive issue and goading him on, thereby encouraging the spread of the crassness.

Traditionally, the writer, editor and publisher are liable for anything that appears in print. The denial inherent in the legend 'views of the author and not the publication' is legally papier mâché as armour in a legal defence and much the same applies here. By airing the intereview, the channel was complicit.

Throwing Pandya under the bus and grabbing a halo for its head by the channel is unfair. That no one has seen fit to castigate the channel for trivialising a subject that is at least a distant cousin of the #MeToo movement is indicative of how much TV gets away with, contrary to the limitations placed on print media.

So, if Hardik has found it in himself to regret his words and apologised unconditionally, it does seem a little unfair that we hear no echo of that remorse from either Johar or the channel. It is not enough to shrug and act as if they were not in some way pretty much involved.

A codicil in the defamation laws states that some jurisdictions also recognise "per se" defamation, where damage is presumed if the defamatory statement relates to one of the following subjects:

Impugns a person's professional character or standing; states or implies that an unmarried person is unchaste (for example, is sexually active); states or implies that a person is infected with a sexually transmitted disease or states or implies that the person has committed a crime of moral turpitude (for example, theft or fraud).

The decent thing for the TV channel and Johar would be to concede that a little discretion on their part might have been not only sensible but mature and responsible. You didn’t have to sell the naïve young man down the river for better ratings.

Updated Date: Jan 12, 2019 20:50 PM