In an unprecedented move, the cream of Bollywood, including Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, has united to sue television news channels Republic TV and Times Now. The stars and studios allege defamation during the channels’ blanket coverage of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and its aftermath.

A total of 38 industry bodies and production houses jointly filed a suit in the Delhi High Court on Monday for the channels and four leading commentators to cease alleged “irresponsible,” “derogatory” and “defamatory” words and phrases used against the film industry.

The suit cites examples including: “dirt”, “filth”, “scum”, “druggies,” “it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned”, “all the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood”, “this is the dirtiest industry in the country”, and “cocaine and LSD drenched Bollywood.”

Filed by leading firm DSK Legal, the suit states: “The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign being run by the defendants. This is in addition to the ongoing pandemic which has resulted in extreme revenues and work opportunity loss. The privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded, and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire Bollywood as criminals, seeped in drug culture, and making being part of Bollywood as synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination.”

Rajput was found dead June 14, aged 34, at his Mumbai home. Speculation around the manner of his death led to a media frenzy with some top Bollywood names including Deepika Padukone and Shraddha Kapoor being questioned on drug-related charges.

The lawsuit also alleges that the news channels have been “openly flouting” India’s program code, which is part of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act.

“These defendants are conducting and publishing parallel private ‘investigations’ and effectively acting as ‘courts’ to condemn persons connected with Bollywood as guilty based on what they claim is ‘evidence’ found by them, thereby trying to make a mockery of the criminal justice system,” the suit states.

The lawsuit comes at a time when Republic TV is under investigation by the Mumbai police over accusations of manipulating television rating points.

The defamation plaintiffs include The Producers Guild of India, Aamir Khan Productions, Ajay Devgn Films, Anil Kapoor Film and Communication Network, Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment, Kabir Khan Films, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures, Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, Reliance Big Entertainment, Rohit Shetty Pictures, Roy Kapur Productions, Salman Khan Ventures, “The Lunchbox” producer Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, Vinod Chopra Films, and Yash Raj Films.

The suit is not seeking a blanket ban on coverage of the Rajput case.