Ab tak 745 (745 so far).
This is not the title of any Bollywood masala flick but the total number of cases filed against celebrities from various fields by a Muzaffarpur-based lawyer in Bihar. Sudhir Kumar Ojha recently hit the headlines after he filed an FIR against 49 celebrities including filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Shyam Benegal and Anurag Kashyap and intellectuals like Ramachandra Guha for writing an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his attention to growing incidents of mob lynching in the country.
Ojha’s FIR which alleged that the letter was seditious and portrayed the country in poor light, drew criticisms from several quarters. A few days later, Bihar police announced that the lawyer will be prosecuted for lodging a false case against the celebrities.
Ojha’s complaint against celebrities, however, isn’t his first. There is not a single celeb in the country who has escaped the prying eyes of the lawyer. Be it former prime minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, actors Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, social activist Anna Hazare or self-styled godman and rape accused Asharam Bapu, all had to appear before the Muzaffarpur court, either in person or through their lawyers, after being dragged into legal wrangling.
But, Ojha’s lust for fame by dragging celebrities to court, boomeranged this time around. While police have said that the lawyer will be prosecuted for registering a false case against the 49 celebrities, the lawyer during the course of investigation failed to produce supporting documents, evidence and even the alleged seditious content of the letter in question, police said.
“So on a circumstantial basis, the case is found to be false. Accordingly, police are closing the case and at the same time will seek the lawyer’s prosecution under various sections of the Indian Penal Code,” Bihar’s additional director general of police Jitendra Kumar told the media recently.
Ojha’s rise to fame, however, hasn’t been a smooth one. The man who has become a celebrity of sorts once used to run an electrical goods shop in Muzaffarpur before he decided to take the plunge into the legal field in the 1990s.
Ojha, who had the shop in front of the district collectorate office, often saw groups of villagers visiting the collector with their grievances, staging dharna, shouting slogans or taking out protest marches in support of their demands. Shaken by the daily ordeals of the masses over even petty issues, he decided to do something for society, the lawyer said while speaking to The Federal. The urge to fight for the rights of the oppressed was inspiration enough for him to shut his electrical shop and take admission into a local law college.
Three years later, armed with a LLB degree, Ojha took it upon himself to file cases against government officials, politicians, social activists, self-styled godmen, NGOs and big personalities who were involved in corruption, ignored the genuine rights of the common man or broke the laws with impunity.
“I was very much distressed to see the plight of people sitting on dharnas for days together, yet getting no help. Authorities treated these sit-ins with disdain; it had become a subject of ridicule. None was paying any attention to it. So, I decided to use the law as a tool to nail the law-breakers,” Ojha said.
Claim to fame
He has, so far, filed 745 cases which include around 200 against all top personalities in the civil court, vigilance court or the High Court. His journey for justice began in 2005 when he filed a PIL in the Patna High Court challenging the railways’ plan to shift its zonal office from Hajipur, a northern Bihar town across the Ganges, to Patna. He won the case and became a star overnight. This was his first case in the court for justice.
Emboldened by the victory, he then filed several cases in the court over issues concerning society and common men, such as dilapidated condition of railway over-bridges, flood relief scam in Bihar, drought scam, multi-crore scandal in Muzaffarpur district council, solar lamp scam, fake degree colleges and medicine scandal. The court took cognizance of all the cases and issued orders.
But what gave him a new identity was his move to become a ‘social reformer’ under which he dragged various big personalities to Muzaffarpur court for their hate campaigns, hurting people’s sentiments or doing “obscene” scenes in the cinemas. He spared none.
“Of all what gave me the satisfaction was the way former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi apologised before the court for her being projected as the Goddess Durga in Moradabad Congress office. That happened only because I had filed a case against her,” says Ojha with a confidence in his voice.
Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai was yet another big personality who had to tender a written apology before the court after he dragged her to court over a kissing scene in blockbuster Dhoom-2.
Ojha, though, summarily rejects the charges that he has been doing all that to gain publicity or blackmail the high and the mighty. “Had that been the case, I would have rather withdrawn the complaints or reached at a compromise. Rather, each case has followed in the court and quite a good number of them even reached the logical conclusion,” he asserts.