Indian American lawyer sues TV serial producers for libel

March 22nd, 2008 - 10:07 am ICT by admin  

New York, March 22 (IANS) An Indian American lawyer who claims he was defamed by an episode of popular crime drama “Law & Order” can press on with his $15 million libel suit against the TV show’s producers, a US judge has ruled. Manhattan attorney Ravi Batra had filed the suit in 2004 alleging the long running show had a villainous Indian American lawyer named Ravi Patel with an appearance similar to his - bald and bearded - in a November 2003 episode titled “Floater” concerning judicial corruption.

In a decision Wednesday, State Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer rejected the TV series creator Dick Wolf’s bid to get the lawsuit dismissed and allowed the case to proceed.

In what she deemed the first “libel-in-fiction” claim to survive a summary motion in nearly 25 years, Shafer held that viewers would identify a fictional matrimonial lawyer named “Ravi Patel” with Batra “because of the uniqueness of name, ethnicity and appearance”, the New York Law Journal reported Thursday.

Indian-born Batra applauded the ruling, saying the episode of the show known for its ripped-from-the-headlines stories had “recklessly undermined public confidence in the rule of law and the noble judiciary”.

In his complaint he had said that the episode deliberately inflicted emotional, monetary and professional injury on him. In the episode Ravi Patel is found guilty of fixing matrimonial cases, corruptly selling consultancies and appointments to judgeships.

Defence attorneys described any similarities between Batra and the Patel character as “abstract”. A spokesman for NBC Universal, which airs the show and is also named as a defendant, said the network was confident that evidence would ultimately disprove Batra’s claim.

Batra’s own law firm is representing him in the case. He is considered politically well connected in Brooklyn.

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