lawyers in India

Banning Films or Article 19(1)(A) - Film laws in India

Written By: Subhradipta Sarkar & Archana Sarma - Law Researchers with People's Watch (Tamil Nadu)
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  • Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.

    Potter Stewart (former US Supreme Court Justice)

    Few months back, incidents of vociferous protests of many Christian communities against screening of films like The Da Vinci Code have dominated the press and media. Numerous opinions and counter-opinions of politicians, religious leaders, experts as well as ‘aam janta’ have been circulated with great zeal on the issue. The outcome we witnessed: one after another seven Indian states[1] imposing a ban on the movie in their territories. The reason cited by almost all the Governments was that the movie is ‘blasphemous and offensive’ and might hurt the ‘emotions’ of the people of the minority community; hence, disturb the ‘peace and tranquility of the State’. However, this is not an unusual phenomenon. Banning books, movies, art has been ‘Indian tradition’. Only fact is that it seems to have taken an upward slope in the recent times. Da Vinci is the latest edition on the line of Water, Final Solution, War and Peace and many more which were restrained in the name of maintaining ‘public order’. Interestingly, Da Vinci was scarped by various State governments even after been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (hereinafter referred to as ‘Censor Board’ or ‘Board’). Apparently, those incidents may be pooh-poohed as political gimmicks but there is a much deeper aspect involved freedom of speech and expression.

    Freedom of speech and expression is the concept of being able to speak freely. It is often regarded as an integral concept in modern liberal democracies. Films have also been accepted as a form of speech and expression. Hence, the banning of the films brings us to the cardinal question do we have the freedom of speech and expression? Films have been banned because of issues related to obscenity, sex and violence but this article does not intend to get into those factors rather it explores into the other factors. Many films are banned or targeted in the name of maintaining public order; respecting beliefs, sentiments and traditions; or for criticizing the state on a certain issues and these are the areas the article primarily focuses in. Again, the article also does not go into intricacies of the subjective matter of the problems; instead, it limits itself to testify the legal validity of the bans in the light of the freedom of speech and expression. In this quest, it presents some controversies in the recent times, highlights certain judgments and relevant legal provisions and finally verifies the legality of such bans.

    The Ban story:

    The film which was in the centre of recent controversy is the Hollywood creation, The Da Vinci Code based on the bestselling 2003 novel by author Dan Brown[2]. It is a mystery/detective novel with Jesus Christ (his realtion with Mary Magdelene) and Christianity amalgamated into it. Apart from few hicupps and protests, the movie was however released with a bang in most of the Western Christian countries on May 18, 2006[3]. Though the novel is on sale (both original and pirated copies) in India since its publication, there was a huge outcry in many states of India by the Christian communities to ban the film from screening in India for the perceived anti-Christian message. Following special screenings for various Catholic leaders and even the Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, the Censor Board finally gave the film an ‘A’ certification and cleared it. But the Board forced the distributor, Sony Pictures to insert a 15-second legal disclaimer card [4] both at the beginning and at the end stating that the movie was purely a tale of fiction[5].

    However, the saga does not end here. Even after the clearance, the protests by several Christian organizations continued and the movie was gradually banned by seven State Governments. In some places the Muslims also joined hands in the protests[6]. The storyline was alleged to be to hurt the ‘religious sentiments’ of Christians as well as Muslims!! Meanwhile, a PIL was filed before the Supreme Court seeking for a complete ban not only on the movie but on the novel as well but the petition was rejected[7]. Afterwards the Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu High Courts have also quashed the ban in the respective states.

    Some other instances of similar nature in the recent times are discussed below:
    Though nothing to do with the ‘social ban’ on Rang De Basanti imposed by the BJP Yuva Morcha in Gujarat, it still ran into controversy because the story featured corrupt politicians and the repeated crash of fighter planes. The film was only cleared after a positive nod from the Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the three chiefs of the defence forces after viewing the film on the invitation from the Board.

    Water, a 2005 movie by Deepa Mehta which is set in 1938 and examines the plight of impoverished widows at a temple in Varanasi, India ran into controversy with the Hindu fundamentalists. Mehta originally intended to direct Water in February, 2000 but before filming had begun, some 2,000 protesters spearheaded by a coalition of Hindu extremists aligned with the BJP (then ruling party at the Centre) destroyed the main film set and even gave death threats to Mehta[8]. Eventually the film was shot secretly with a different cast in Sri Lanka, under the title River Moon in 2003. In spite of wide international recognition, the film is yet to be released in India. The Censor Board finally cleared the movie to be released in India in November 2006[9].

    Rakesh Sharma’s film Final Solution was a study of the politics of hate. The film is set in the backdrop of the post communal violence of Gujarat in 2002[10].. In spite of international accolades, the film was banned in India by the Censor Board for several months stating that State security is jeopardized and public order is endangered if this film is shown[11]. The ban was finally lifted in October, 2004 after a sustained campaign.

    On the same context, Faaiz Anwar’s film Chand Bujh Gaya depicted a love story of a young couple -a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl - whose lives are torn apart in the riots. The Censor Board refused to certify the film because it is full of gory visuals of violence and that certain characters have definite resemblance to real life personalities and it was still a live issue by then, thus inciting communal violence. Later the Bombay High Court quashed the order of the Board. The court also rescued another documentary film Aakrosh (2003) of 18 minutes which brought out the agony and anguish of victims of communal riots.

    In 2002, the film War and Peace, created by Anand Patwardhan, focusing on the dangers of nuclear war in the Indian sub-continent, was asked to make 21 cuts[12] before it was allowed to have the certificate for release. The mater finally reached the court and the Mumbai High Court ordered the Censor Board to issue a ‘U’ certificate without imposing cuts or making additions to the footage.

    Another Rakesh Sharma film which drew similar controversy is Aftershocks : The Rough Guide to Democracy (2002). Set in Gujarat’s post-earthquake situation of 2001, it engages itself with the debate of Environment vs Development and examines the fate of marginal citizens in a welfare state. It shows how the government controlled mining company sees the quake as God sent opportunity to acquire two quake-affected lignite rich villages[13]. This was also rejected by the government-run Mumbai International film festival in 2002.

    In 1999, orchestrated by Tamil Nadu’s Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) state government, a coalition partner in then BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the police arrested two men for holding a preview of the documentary, Death of a River, to writers, journalists and intellectuals. The film dealt with the police massacre of striking Manjolai tea estate workers at the Thamiraparani River which resulted in killing of 17 people[14].

    The list of the films is not exhaustive but only a tip of the iceberg of what goes on day in and day out there are numerous such instances where films got into trouble while dealing with matters of serious nature. However, the phenomenon is not all together new. Just few films have been cited here to show the present nature and extent of the problem. Past films have also been targets of community and government ire. Many years back, two films Aandhi and Kissa Kursi Kaa were perceived to be about the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi[15]. In fact, Kissa Kursi Kaa turned out to be the most controversial film ever made in the history of Indian cinema. The film was accused of scathing criticism of the functioning of the Central Government under Mrs. Gandhi. The film’s negative was burnt by the then ruling party minister and the film had to be re-shot.[16]

    All those incidents represent the arbitrary nature of the authorities, various groups or political parties and their die-hard efforts to curb the freedom of speech and expression through films which fell out of their taste. The filmmakers, to exercise one of the most coveted right, had to depend either upon the whims and fancies of those elements or to fight legal battles; still there are many films which never saw the light of the day.

    What does the law say

    As it has been already stated that motion pictures have also been regarded as a form of speech and expression in India, it is pertinent to look at the ambit of this freedom under the international and national law regime. Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR specifically endorse this right. However, this right is not absolute in any country; governments always prohibit certain types of expressions. Under international law, restrictions on free speech and expression are required to conform to a strict three part test: they must be provided by law, pursue an aim recognized as legitimate, and be necessary (i.e., proportionate) for the accomplishment of that aim. Amongst the aims considered legitimate are protection of the rights and reputations of others, the protection of national security and public order and morals[17]. We have also similar provision of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution which is guaranteed to all the citizens along with ‘reasonable’ restriction under Article 19(2) on certain grounds.[18]

    ICCPR also recognizes this right ‘in the form of art’ which includes films. So far censorship of films in India is concerned, the power of legislation is vested with the Parliament according to Entry 60 [19] of the Union List of the Schedule VII under the Constitution. However, the States can also make laws on cinemas under Entry 33 [20] of the Sate List but subject to the provision of the central legislation. The prime legislation in this respect is the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (hereinafter referred to as ‘1952 Act’) and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983 (hereinafter referred to as ‘Rules’).

    The Act was enacted to provide for the certification of cinematograph films for exhibition and for regulating their exhibition. The brief scheme of the statute is as follows. It empowers the Central Government to constitute a Censor Board consisting of up to 25 members for the purpose of sanctioning films for public exhibition. After examination of a film, either the Board sanctions the film for restricted or unrestricted public exhibition; or directs to carry out necessary modifications; or refuse to sanction the film for public exhibition. Section 5-B(1) provides the ground for the restriction for public exhibition which is in consonance with Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Sub-section 2 empowers the Central Government to issue necessary guidelines in this regard [21]. The Act also provides for Appellate tribunals from the decisions of the Board.

    The Central Government is vested with revisional powers under Section 6(1) to call for the record of any proceeding in relation to any film at any stage, except a matter of appeal pending before the Tribunal, to give necessary order and the Board must dispose of the matter in conformity with such order. The proviso to this section enabled the Government not to disclose any fact in this respect which it considered to be against public interest. Penalties are also prescribed for contravention of the requirements of the Act. Under Part III, which deals with licensing for exhibition, section 13 empowers the Central Government or the Local Authority to suspend exhibition of a film in a UT/State or part of it where it may likely to cause breach of peace.

    The Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983 have been framed under Section 8 of the Act. The Rules deals in the procedural details of Board, the Examining Committee, Revising Committee, the Tribunal and related matters. It may be stated in this regard, under Rule 11, it specifically imposes a duty on the Board to assess public reactions to films. This may be by holding symposia or seminars of film critics, film writers, community leaders and persons engaged in the film industry and also by undertaking local or national surveys to study the impact of films on the public mind.

    Apart from the statutory laws, the Indian Courts through its various judgments have contributed immensely to build up the jurisprudence in this respect. Some of those important judgments related to feature films, tele films and television serials are discussed below:
    In K.A. Abbas v. Union of India[22], the constitutionality of censorship under the 1952 Act along with the Rules under it was challenged. But the Supreme Court upheld the consititionality within the ambit of Article 19(2) and added that films have to be treated separately from other forms of art and expression because a motion picture is ‘able to stir up emotions more deeply than any other product of art’. However, at the same time it cautioned that it should be ‘in the interests of society’.

    Probably, the most important case so far the problem dealt here with is the case of Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram[23]. In an appeal before the Supreme Court the decision of the Madras High Court was challenged for revoking the ‘U-Certificate’ issued to a Tamil film called Ore Oru Gramathile (In One Village). As the film criticized the reservation policy of the Tamil Nadu Government, it was held that the reaction to the film in Tamil Nadu is bound to be volatile[24]. But the Supreme Court overturned the High Court decision while upholding the freedom of speech and expression. In doing so, the Court did acknowledge to have a compromise between the interest of freedom of expression and social interests. However, it went on to observe that the anticipated danger should not be remote, conjectural or far fetched but have proximate and direct nexus with the expression and equivalent of a spark in a powder keg.

    The Court criticized the State and emphasized that freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or threats of violence. It is the duty of the State to protect the freedom of expression since it is a liberty guaranteed against the State. The State cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. (Emphasis added). As censorship is permitted only on the grounds under Article 19(2), the standard to be applied by the board or courts for judging the film should be that of an ordinary man of common sense and prudence and not that of an out of the ordinary or hypersensitive man.[25]

    Another incident came up was regarding a serial Tamas which depicted the Hindu-Muslim and Sikh-Muslim tension before the partition of India[26]. Appeal was preferred before the Supreme Court from the judgment of Bombay High Court in Ramesh v. Union of India and Others [27], to restrain the screening of the serial as it was violative of Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution and Section 5B of the Act. The Supreme Court affirmed the High Court decision to dismiss the petition. Commenting on the reaction of the average men, the Court held that the average person would learn from the mistakes of the past and perhaps not commit those mistakes again. They concurred with the High Court that illiterates are not devoid of common sense and awareness in proper light is a first step towards that realization.

    In Odyssey Communications Pvt. Ltd. v. Lokvidayan Sanghatana[28], an appeal was filed before the SC from an interim injunction issued by the Bombay High Court to stop the telecast of a serial Honi Anhoni on the Doordarshan which was not in public interest as it was likely to spread false or blind beliefs amongst the members of the public. The SC struck down the injunction because in its opinion the petitioners, apart from their own statements there is no prima-facie evidence to show that grave prejudice was being done to the public.

    In Sree Raghavendra Films v Government of Andhra Pradesh and others [29], the exhibition of the film ‘Bombay’ in its Telugu version was suspended in exercise of the powers u/Sec.8(1) of the A.P. Cinemas Regulation Act,1955 [30], despite been certified by the Censor Board for unrestricted exhibition. The suspension was imposed citing the cause that it may hurt sentiments of certain communities. However, it was found that the authorities who passed the impugned order did not even watching the movie!! The Court quashed the order as being arbitrary and not based on proper material.

    In Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah, Doordrashan  [31] refused to telecast a documentary film on the Bhopal Gas Disaster titled Beyond Genocide, in spite of the fact that the film won Golden Lotus award, being the best non-feature film of 1987 and was granted ‘U’ certificate by the Censor Board. The reasons cited by Doordarshan were inter alia, the political parties had been raising various issues concerning the tragedy, and the claims for compensation by victims were sub judice. Upholding the freedom of speech the Court held: ..Merely because it is critical of the State Government…is no reason to deny selection and publication of the film. So also pendency of claims for compensation does not render the matter sub judice so as to shut out the entire film from the community. The Court made it clear that subject to Article 19(2), a citizen has a right to publish, circulate and disseminate his views to mould public opinion on vital issues of national importance. Hence, any attempt to thwart or deny the same would offend Art. 19(1)(a). Under such circumstances, the burden would, therefore, heavily lie on the authorities that seek to impose them to show that the restrictions are reasonable and permissible in law.
    Again an award winning documentary film, In Memory of Friends about the violence and terrorism in Punjab was rejected by Doordarshan even after been granted ‘U’ certificate by the Censor Board reasoning if such documentary is shown to people, it would create communal hatred and may even lead to a further violence. The court quashed the order emphasizing: The State cannot prevent open discussion and open expression, however, hateful to its policies. Everyone has a fundamental right to form his own opinion on any issue or general concern. He can form and inform by any legitimate means [32].

    Even in the case of the Da Vinci controversy, the Supreme court rejected the writ petition by the All India Christians Welfare Association seeking a ban on the movie as it is ‘blasphemous’. The court found no point of objection when the Censor Board and the Central Government has given a green signal. It also held that that no predominantly Christian country had banned the film and there has been no definite reason forwarded by the petitioners to ban the movie in India. In the States of Andhara Pradesh [33], Kerala and Tamil Nadu  [34], the respective High Courts quashed the bans imposed by the State Governments and also imposed costs on the governments. While upholding the right to freedom of speech and expression, the Courts found the act of Governments ‘irrational’ and ‘unconstitutional’. They were of the opinion that the bans were imposed mechanically due to the veto of a few people who objected rather than arriving at a decision based on informed satisfaction.

    In all those cases of Da Vinci, it was alleged that the film violated inter alia, Article 25  [35]of the Constitution with respect to the Christian community. The Madras High Court reasoned: As regards the harmonious interpretation of Articles 25 and 19, it is clear from a reading of these provisions that the rights under Article 25 are subject to the other provisions of Part III, which means they are subject to Article 19(1). It was not also clear before the court how the exhibition of the film will interfere with anyone’s freedom of conscience or the right to profess, practise and propagate a particular religion. Moreover, according to the court, under no circumstances ‘blasphemy’ is a ground under Article 19(2).

    It is important to note that in the case of Union of India v K.M. Shankarappa [36], the Supreme Court disapproved of the Government retaining powers by enacting Section 6(1). It held:
    The Government has chosen to establish a quasi-judicial body which has been given the powers, inter alia, to decide the effect of the film on the public. Once a quasi-judicial body like the Appellate Tribunal, consisting of a retired Judge of a High Court or a person qualified to be a Judge of a High Court and other experts in the field, gives its decision that decision would be final and binding so far as the Executive and the Government is concerned. The Executive has to obey judicial orders. Thus, Section 6(1) is a travesty of the rule of law which is one of the basic structures of the Constitution. The Executive cannot sit in an appeal or review or revise a judicial order. At the highest, the Government may apply to the Tribunal itself for a review, if circumstances so warrant. But the Government would be bound by the ultimate decision of the Tribunal. (Emphasis added) This judgment stands till date.

    How far are those activities justified?

    In the previous section several cases cited make it crystal clear that so far motion pictures are concerned, the higher courts in India have zealously guarded the freedom of speech and expression and have shown optimum judicial activism. They have refused to scrap any movie without any compelling reason for restriction and which are not based on vague or unreasonable apprehensions. But time and again, similar protests have been raised to restrain the exercise of the freedom. On the other hand, as the statutory law is highly centralized and too much power has been given to the executive, it has become virtually become impossible to perform impartially. The legislation was intended to put restriction on ‘reasonable’ grounds but that has opened the floodgates for protests, litigations and all sorts of arbitrary acts.

    We live in a democratic country and everyone has a right to communicate his views on different matters. Millions of views are circulated throughout the nation every day by different means. Many of them are not approved by majority of the Indians. But does that mean that those should be scrapped? Or the authors have to knock the doors of the courts if their pieces do not satisfy one billion population? Similarly, movie is the legitimate and the most important medium in which issues of general concern can be treated. Moreover, they are not openly screened for everyone. It is available to only those people who are willing to buy tickets, go to the theatres and watch them. Unwilling people can easily choose to stay away from the movies. The director or producer has a right to project his own messages which the others may not approve of. But that does not deter his right to ‘think out’ and give shape through his creations. ‘Free debate’ and ‘open discussion’ has been considered as an integral part of a democracy in both Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India and Rangarajan case  [37]. Otherwise, democracy has no value and it is equivalent to a totalitarian regime. However, all the above incidents indicate nothing but assert that fact loudly, still we feel proud of being a part of world’s one of the biggest democracy!!

    Whenever a movie falls out of the taste of the certain power-holders, they have orchestrated to ban the movie arbitrarily. But have those bans taken care of the right of the viewers generally? They are deprived of the movie simply because it does not suit a group of persons with whom they have no link. Thus, when a movie is banned the ‘right of the viewers’ is also offended. In the case of Secretary, Ministry of I & B v. Cricket Association of Bengal [38], it was held that freedom of speech and expression includes right to acquire information and to disseminate it to public at large. Hence, Article 19(1)(a) also includes the right of viewers. Again in Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India [39], it was held that the people have a right to be informed of the developments that take place in a democratic process. Here, we can take the example of the Da Vinci Code. The movie was banned in 7 states the result was over 20 crores of Indians were deprived from viewing the movie. The total Christian population in the country is 2.3%, while the states banned the movie has varied percentage of Christian residents. Kerala, which holds the largest number of Christians, the book had already been translated in Malayalam and widely circulated [40]. So whose ‘religious sentiments’ and ‘emotions’ are the States speaking of? Only because of protests by few organizations, the State Governments scrapped the movie without taking into consideration either of a vast majority of the people in the states or even the minority community which is projected to be against the screening of the movie. Moreover, if the justification forwarded by the State Governments banning the movie can be put forward by all other states, the movie can be banned in the whole country.

    The Censor Board is supposed to be a large expert body carefully constituted to cater to the needs of different segments of the society. Moreover, the procedure for grant of certificate of exhibition to a film is quite elaborate. So its decisions must be given full weight. But the role and position of the Board is confusing. The members are appointed and virtually controlled by the Government. However, the irony is that the game is not confined to only scrapping of movies by the Board. Even a positive nod by the Board is not the final but depends on the Central Government. Already instances have been forwarded where either State Government or State-owned Doordarshan has scrapped movies even after being cleared by the Board and Central Government. In such circumstances, where does the importance of the Censor Board’s decisions lie? The statute provides for the construction of advisory panels which can only make recommendations to the Board [41]. However, in case of Rang De Basant, the Board invited defence minister and people from the forces; during Da Vinci they invited I & B minister along with representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India for their advice who actually had the final say. Next time to make a film on the terrorists will the terror groups be invited to certify the content? If in every case, people from respective spheres are to be called to verify the authenticity of the film and give binding recommendation then what is the rationale of having a statutory expert body? On the other hand, while films on Gujarat massacre were banned, highly provocative film like Gadar was allowed! Why this discrimination? At least the former pieces have basis on real facts but the latter was a product of wild imagination.

    Another aspect of this phenomenon is that irrespective of the effect of the movies, there is always a call for a total ban without even exploring any other possibilities. In the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Gujarat v Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat [42], stated that a total prohibition under Article 19(2) to (6) must also satisfy the test that a lesser alternative would be inadequate.

    The banning of films also has some other implications. While a film is banned, it does not only affect the freedom of speech and expression of the director or producer, it affects the economical aspects of many people which are also guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. Film making, distribution and screening are essential aspects of films business, if the film is banned, it affect all those aspects which defiantly falls under Article 19(1)(g)? But who will be responsible for it? Again, in many cases violent groups ransack theatres in protest against the screening of certain films. It definitely affects the property of the theatre hall owners [43]. But the right to property is inviolable under Article 300(A) of the Constitution without the authority of law. Hence, to allow one’s properties to be destroyed by some group of people is a clear deprivation of the right to property guaranteed by the Constitution. So finally in such cases, the State fails in its duty to secure its citizens’ of various constitutional and legal rights.

    Thus, the above discussion makes it obvious that the bans on the movies under different circumstances have not been imposed on valid constitutional grounds but to serve the interests of different groups whether social, religious or political. Under no circumstances, the bans of aforementioned nature can be justified.

    The ‘reasonable’ restriction under Article 19(2) was invariably for public interest but it has been twisted on many occasions to strangulate the freedom of speech and expression. The result is that we have been deprived of several films as it does not satisfy the taste of ‘others’. If this is the case, the question arises do we really need this restriction? The First Amendment to the US Constitution states: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. Over 200 years has passed since that amendment and after witnessing all those arbitrary acts in our country, ‘reasonable restriction’ really needs consideration in the so-called globalized and liberal world. All the time the excuse of India being a diverse country with unique set of problems has been put forward and the need of restrictions has been over emphasized. But in reality the restrictions have served more in the negative sense than for positive development.
    In today’s world with enormous improvement in information technology, restraining movies in the name of maintaining public peace, respecting emotions of people and similar reasons are simply ridiculous. There are numerous alternative sources through which the news and views depicted in the movies are articulated to the general public. So, restraining movies does not serve any purpose. On the other hand, it may actually give wrong message to the public through indirect interpretation. It is always the best that the viewers themselves watch it and form his/her own opinion. General public may be devoid of proper education but not always of common sense. It is the selfish, tampered groups who twist the subject matter and mislead other people to serve their own purposes. Conversely, no group takes the role of a proper guide. Neither Da Vinci nor the other instances dealt with in the article clearly prove that the imposed bans did have any strong legal foundation.

    After analyzing all those incidents, judgments and statutory settings, the activities and rationale of having a censor board is also highly debatable. If at all we need to have such a body it needs to be more autonomous, whose decision will be the final rather than to be a puppet in the hands of the government. In this light, the judgment of Shankarappa is much needed adrenalin. Furthermore, scrapping movies even after the clearance by the Censor Board is not only an arbitrary act but a dangerous trend of heightened intolerance. On a whole, the courts have done a laudable job in this respect but time and again similar issues have been raised. Hence, a permanent solution is essential. One such effort may be to revamp the 1952 Act altogether. However, in the given circumstances of today’s world, it is better to have a rating body than a censor board. Again, power of limited censorship cannot be delegated to the states arbitrarily. They must have to satisfy the central authority as to why the ban in their territory is indispensable, and that there is no alternative left. The most important of all is that the censor board must be an autonomous body and to whom the Government can forward its suggestions/recommendations but the decision must be taken by the board alone independently.

    While we enthusiastically profess right to information, we cannot sit back and ban films and hence, censor information. And if an unlawful means is adopted by any person(s) to stop screening of films, the Government has to ensure that law and order is maintained by taking appropriate actions against the person concerned. In case the Government fails in its obligation, it must be held for contempt of court. Hence it can be concluded, if democracy has to evolve, screening of films can never be denied for reasons based on mere speculation because banning films is equivalent to banning the right of freedom of speech and expression. And if such events persist, it reflects nothing but the words of the US Supreme Court justice.

    End Notes:
    [1] The seven states are: Goa, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab.
    [2] It’s a worldwide bestseller with more than 60.5 million copies in print (as of May 2006) and has been translated into 44 languages. (The Da Vinci Code, available at
    [3] It racked up $231.8m at box offices around the world in its first weekend which is the second most successful opening in history after ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’, which made $253m. (Punjab ban for Da Vinci Code film”, available at
    [4] The card reads: "The characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional."
    [5] Monica Chadha, "Indian censors win Da Vinci fight" available at
    [6] For details, see, "Muslims join Da Vinci criticism available", at
    [7] "India court blocks Da Vinci ban" available at
    [8] Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, "The Politics of Deepa Mehta’s Water", available at
    [9] Deepa Mehta's earlier films Fire and Earth also attracted hostility from Hindu fundamentalists who objected to her subject matter and had organized attacks on cinemas that screened the films.
    [10] "Final Solution", available at
    [11] For details, see, "India bans religious riot movie" available at
    [12] "21 cuts demanded by Censor Board on ‘War and Peace’", available at
    [13] "Aftershocks: The Rough Guide to Democracy", available at
    [14] "Arrests made in India over screening of film on the Manjolai massacre", available at
    [15] While the later was denied a censor certificate, the former was withdrawn from the cinemas. It was re-released a few weeks later when Mrs. Gandhi herself cleared it after consulting some critics.
    [16] A case was registered and the Sessions Court, Delhi found the accused guilty. However, the Supreme Court overturned the decision. Refer to, V.C. Shukla v. State (Delhi Administration), AIR 1980 SC 1382.
    [17] Article 19(3) of the ICCPR.
    [18] The grounds are: the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense.
    [19] Sanctioning of cinematograph films for exhibition.
    [20] Theatres and dramatic performances; cinemas subject to the provisions of entry 60 of List I;
    [21] The guidelines were revised in the year 1991. For details, see,
    [22] AIR 1971 SC 481.
    [23] (1989) 2 SCC 574.
    [24] In the meantime, the film had already won National Award by the Directorate of Film Festival of the Government of India.
    [25] Similar view was held way back in the case of Bhagwati Charan Shukla v. Provincial Government, AIR 1947 Nag 1.
    [26] It was based on a book written by Sree Bhisham Sahni.
    [27] AIR 1988 SC 775.
    [28] AIR 1988 SC 1642.
    [29] 1995(2) ALD 81.
    [30] Same provision was used to ban The Dan Vinci Code in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
    [31] AIR 1993 SC 171.
    [32] Anand Patwardhan v. The Union of India and others, AIR 1997 Bom 25.
    [33] Lakshmi Genesh Films & Others v. Government of Andhra Pradesh & Others, W.P. Nos.11006, 11381 and 11575 of 2006.
    [34] Sony Pictures Releasing of India Ltd. and another v. Sate of Tamil Nadu and Others, W.P. No.18230 of 2006
    [35] Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
    [36] (2001) 1 SCC 582
    [37] AIR 1978 SC 597
    [38] (1995) 2 SCC 161
    [39] AIR 1986 SC 515
    [40] The source of population data is the Census of India report, 2001.
    [41] Section 5.
    [42] 2005(8) SCC 534
    [43] It may be mentioned that Activists of All India Christian United Front stormed ransacked the premises of a multiplex in Hyderabad and forced the theatre management to stop screening of the Da Vanci Code, even after the AP High Court quashed the ban in the State. (Da Vinci Code: AICUF activists ransack multiplex premises: available at

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