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HC relief for Balaji telefilms over non-payment of fees

The Bombay High Court granted interim relief to Balaji Telefilms’ head honcho Ekta Kapoor and joint director Shobha Kapoor after it stayed a magisterial inquiry in a complaint filed by the firm’s lawyer over non-payment of fees.

Ekta Kapoor
Breathe easy: Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor were accused of not paying Rizwan Siddique, a lawyer, for drafting agreements for Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. The High Court stayed all proceedings and has posted the case for October 31. File pic 

The Kapoors, represented by advocate Aabad Ponda contended in their application that the inquiry and issuance of process by the Andheri Metropolitan Magistrate needed to be set aside as it was ‘malafide’ and ‘bad in law’. They also alleged Advocate Rizwan Siddique was actually trying to extort money from them.

Ponda told the court, “This is a case where a lawyer has not been paid fees by his client and the Magistrate has found no case under Section 420.”

Show me the money
In August, the Magistrate had issued process under Section 204 of the CrPC on a complaint made by Siddique. He alleged that Balaji owed him Rs 30,000. However, when he approached the company to collect his fees, the staff — a Nitesh Shrivastav in particular — was rude, abusive and disrespectful. He also alleged that several requests to the company for his money had gone unheeded.

Speaking to MiD DAY, Siddique said, “On a friend’s personal request, I had drafted four or five agreements for Balaji for their film Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. I was on vacation at the time but drafted the agreements without even being paid an advance. At this point it is not about the money, which I have written off. It is a matter of principle. The staff at Balaji was very rude to me when I tried to talk to them.”

‘No prima facie case’
The Kapoors’ application contended that the case was an entirely civil dispute, with no prima facie case made out against them. In fact, they even contended that they had sent Siddique a demand draft of Rs 27,000 (minus TDS) that he had refused to accept.

They claimed that on August 24 this year, they had also sent him a letter asking him to come and collect the money, which he had ignored.

They contended that the Metropolitan Magistrate had erred in issuing process and had not applied his mind, especially as there was no prima facie offence made out.

A division bench of Justices AS Oka and SS Jadhav has now stayed all further proceedings in the magistrate court and has posted the case for further hearing on October 31. 

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