Case No. 503 puts Bihar lawyer in spotlight
Mumbai: When Sudhir Kumar Ojha, 45, filed a case against two senior executives of Nestlé India and three Bollywood celebrities with the district court of Muzaffarpur on 1 June, it was the lawyer’s 503rd case—in 20 years.
Saying he had fallen ill after eating Maggi noodles, he filed a criminal case against Nestle’s managing director Mohan Gupta and the joint managing director Shabab Alam, and actors who have appeared in Maggi ads: Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta and Madhuri Dixit.
The case was filed 11 days after authorities in Uttar Pradesh decided to prosecute Nestle, alleging high levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in Maggi noodles.
Ojha filed the case under the Indian Penal Code sections 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 273 (sale of noxious food or drink), 276 (sale of drug as a different drug or preparation) and 420 (cheating and dishonesty).
When the matter came up for hearing on 2 June, the additional chief judicial magistrate Ramchandra Prasad found that it had merit, and instructed the Kazi Mohammadpur Police Station to register a first information report (FIR) against the two Nestle executives, and the three stars and investigate the complaint.
The court also directed the police to carry out any arrest, if required, during the course of investigation.
Despite making headlines, as things now stand, there’s been little progress on it—3 June was a holiday in Muzaffarpur, and the courts were shut.
“I have received no notice from court,” says Ashok Kumar, sub-inspector at Kazi Mohammadpur Police Station. “Today (3 June) is a holiday. And first, the notice has to go to the superintendent of police (SP) and only then will it reach us. Once it does, we will begin our investigation.”
The course of events has Ojha quite pleased.sixthMAds
“This company is promoting Maggi as a healthy, quality food,” he says. “But what they are really selling is zeher (poison). And these celebrities are advertising it. This product which has chemicals; that is why I have filed the case.”
And then he adds: “You think about it. So many children and women eat this Maggi. They really like it. If it has poisonous chemicals, then what will be the future of this country? They are the future of our country.”
This—case no. 503—is not the first time Ojha has been deeply disturbed about the “future of the country”.
In his complaint, he charged the prime minister with hurting “people’s sentiments” because, in his view, the award ought to have gone to hockey legend Dhyan Chand.
Then there was this other time when he was concerned about the country’s future—that is when he discovered allegedly obscene pictures of Bollywood celebrities like Bipasha Basu and Sonakshi Sinha on the Internet. There too, he filed a case.
It is a story that has played out repeatedly over the last 20 years, ever since Ojha began his legal practice in December 1995.
Over the years, several famous individuals have found their names hauled up in Muzaffarpur district court. These include Shah Rukh Khan, Gauri Khan, Salman Khan, Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, Salman Khan, Sushilkumar Shinde, Katrina Kaif, Vidya Balan and a host of others.
That he has been able to do that is an achievement Ojha is really proud of.
“I look at myself as a person who is serving the society. Using law. Where I am fighting against corruption, bribery, malice and illegal activities.”
Sure. Could publicity be a motive?
“If you do good work, then automatically, you will get publicity,” he says. “It is only then that you will get publicity. All the cases that I have filed are all jaayaz (valid). This company is playing with the health of people. If I don’t speak up, then who will? How will things improve? I know people will criticize me but that’s okay. I will use that to become a better person. I can also make mistakes. I am also human, not God.”