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Above: Karni Sena has been staging violent protests against the release of Padmavati. Photo: UNI

Apex court insists that “freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct” and that courts should be “extremely slow” in passing restraining orders

As the row over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati intensifies, the Supreme Court on Thursday (November 16) said that the filmmakers and writers should be allowed freedom of speech and expression. The apex court’s observation comes on a PIL seeking to block the release of a movie on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, ‘An Insignificant Man’, exactly one day before its scheduled release.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, while rejecting the plea filed by Nachiketa Walhekar, upheld freedom of speech and expression saying “Courts should be extremely slow in passing restraining orders”. The documentary film on Kejriwal, directed by Khushboo Rana and Vinay Shukla was then released on Friday as scheduled.

The petitioner is the same person who had thrown ink at Kejriwal in 2013, the video of which is now being shown as part of the film’s promotion.

The court, while dismissing the plea, also mentioned that “freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct” and “the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with”.

“An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind,” observed the court.

The apex court judgement comes at a time when the Karni Sena and its members have openly issued threats against the artists and makers of the upcoming movie Padmavati. Besides the organsiations’ threats to the maker and actors of the film, special security has been provided to Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The movie is scheduled to be released on December 1.

However, another plea was filed by a lawyer against Bhansali’s film, seeking deletion of objectionable parts from the movie. The court has agreed to consider the plea but the final outcome is yet to be seen.

India Legal Bureau 

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