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Two cases in which the apex court leant towards freedom of expression

Film (and television ) censorship in India has become a contentious issue, especially with several high-handed decisions of late by the film censor board, which, it has been argued, is basically (and legally) a body to certify a category of a movie and not to suggest or order cuts and changes as it deems.

Film producers and directors have voiced their concerns about this for a long time, without success, as the censor board keeps interfering with the producer-directors’ intellectual property with some pretext or the other, creating unnecessary havoc. The government has chipped in as well, with unnecessarily sensitizing films and TV clips/serials that even have already been shown.

Two such incidents were dealt with a hard hand by the Supreme Court on April 17.

Why pre-censorship of films?

In the first instance, the bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhusan heard the appeal by film actor and director Amol Palekar, challenging the pre-censorship of films. The petition also seeks direction to implement recommendations of the Shyam Benegal committee.

The petitioner, represented by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, contended that the censor board does not have a member with judicial background, resulting in persistent neglect of the fundamental right to speech and expression.

The counsel submitted that this was a very interesting case in the modern world.

The bench issued notice. The next date of hearing has to be decided.

No ban on sex comedy Grand Masti

In the second case, the apex court showed how to deal with a case that was virtually pre-determined by telecasts.

Grand Masti, a Bollywood sex-comedy film directed by Indra Kumar and produced by Ashok Thakeria, is filled with sexual attributes, innuendos and such. The Union government wanted a ban on televising the movie, saying it had sexually explicit content. The case came up to the apex court after the proposed ban was rejected at the high court level.

The producers, represented by Edara Gopi Chand, defended in the Supreme Court against the government’s appeal against the high court order.

On April 17, the bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul noted that the movie had already been shown on television three times, hence the high court was right in rejecting the ban order.

Hence the apex court upheld the high court order and the prayer for the interim ban was dismissed. The movie will be shown without issues.

The movie features Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi and Aftab Shivdasani, Bruna Abdullah, Karishma Tanna, Sonalee Kulkarni, Kainaat Arora, Maryam Zakaria and Manjari Fadnis.

—By India legal Bureau

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