The case of S. Rangarajan V/s P. Jagjivan Ram
directed that there must
be a proper balance between one of the right free speech and restriction of any
social interest. The freedom of conveying an idea through movies has also some
restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
These restrictions come under several policies like integrity, sovereignty,
national security, morality, contempt of court. The law demands that it can’t be
conquered unless in any special situation and the community interest can face
any kind of public damage. The anticipated danger must come proximately with the
expression rather than any kind of hypothetical situation. It can be considered
just as equivalent as ‘spark in a powder keg’
Hence the guaranteed fundamental freedom under Article 19(1) which is legitimate
and constitutionally protected can only be restricted under some circumstances
that are mentioned under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
Petirioner: S. Rangarajan v/s
Respondent: P. Jagjivan Ram and Ors
Date of Decision: 30th March 1989
Citation: 1989 (2) SCC 574 -
Court: Supreme Court of India
Hon’ble Judges: Justice K. Jagannatha Shetty, Justice K.N. Singh, and Justice
- Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution
- Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution
- Section 5, 5A, 5B & 7B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
- Rule 24 & Rule 24(1) of the Cinematograph (Certificate) Rules, 1983
- Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
On 07/08/1987, the producer applied to issue an exhibition certificate for the
film ‘Ore Oru Gramathile’. The film was based on the theme ‘reservation policy
must be based on economic condition rather than the caste system’. In the film,
there was not any kind of warrant that it contains the theme of caste
consideration or reservation policy, neither it gave any kind of consideration
over sovereignty, integrity, and national security of India.
At first, the
examining committee refused to grant the exhibiting certificate, then the
producer asked for a second review by a Revising Committee of nine members.
Eight of the nine members were in favor to grant the certificate but one opposed
the same, so the Chairman of the Censor Board referred for review under the
Second Review Committee that was also consisted of nine members. After the whole
examination, they conclude to issue a ‘U’ certificate after deleting some of the
scenes from the movie.
The movie was awarded a National Award by the Directorate
of Film Festival of the Government of India. After the projection of the movie,
a writ petition was filed at Madras High Court with a view that this movie has
expressed the Reservation policy of the Government irresponsibly. The Division
Bench revoked the certificate on the view of the minority section and thus the
appellant went to the Supreme Court of India.
Whether the film can be issued the certificate by the censorship board?
Appellant’s Argument: The appellant’s counsel, Mr. Soli Sorabjee, argued that
the producer is guaranteed freedom of expression under the Indian Constitution
that he can express through his movie. The movie is a work of art and there is
someone’s idea behind it and the main theme or message behind the movie can’t be
untraced and it should not be judged unbiased. The court must look over the
general issue rather than any particular committee’s view.
Respondent’s Argument: The respondent’s counsel gave his argument that the theme
of the movie gave an idea of the deteriorating structure of Indian Reservation
Policy. Movies are to be considered as a medium of entertainment rather than the
medium to convey any message.
Judgment: Justice K. Jagannatha Shetty delivered the judgment of the court.
Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and
expression which also includes the freedom of communication that can be made via
movie. But these rights have consisted of some restrictions in the interest of
sovereignty, integrity, and national security that are obliged under Article
13(2) of the Indian Constitution.
The movie enjoys the right but it doesn’t work
like newspaper or other modes of communication and we can observe the difference
between the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 19(1)(a) of the
Indian Constitution. There are some sections and guidelines under The
Cinematography Act, 1952 through which any particular film must be judged,
including its impact at the general view and must be examined at the
contemporary standard of the country.
The permissible censorship must be
permitted based on social interest and the standard of society under Article
19(2) of the Indian Constitution. The Hon’ble judge also gave a reference to
some landmark cases such as:
- K.A. Abbas Vs Union of India[3
- Ramesh Vs Union of India
- Rajkapoor Vs Laxman
- Naraindas Vs State of Madhya Pradesh
- Sakal Vs Union of India
- Kamal Krishna Vs Emperor[8
- Manohar Vs Government of Bombay and
- Niharendu Dutt Majumdar Vs Emperor
It held that since the
state has the obligation to protect freedom of expression and the film has been
judged by two different committees as per the prescribed guidelines. There is no
constitutional contrary in approving the projection of film and also any person
has the right to give his/her view on any governmental policy.
Open criticism of
government policies and operations is not a ground for restricting such an
important right, it must be tolerable. Hence the judgment of the High Court was
reversed and the film was allowed to be projected. 
From the case of S. Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjivan Ram
analyzed the issue that Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees
the freedom of speech and expression that also includes a mode by any media. But
there are some restrictions on this freedom under Article 19(2) of the Indian
Constitution. Article 15(4) is the only exception to the doctrine of equality
that comes under Article 15(1) and in that way, Article 16(4) is the exception
that relates to public employment under Article 16(1) & 16(2). 
The Supreme Court of India confirmed the query of film censorship
under the Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. In the case of S. Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjivan Ram, Madras High Court revoked the ‘U
certificate of a Tamil film Ore Oru Gramathile
and thus the film banned to be projected.
film was criticizing the Government’s Reservation Policy and can indeed over the
sovereignty, integrity, and national security of India. The film also received a
National Award by the Directorate of Film Festival of the Government of India.
After the verdict of the High Court, the plead went to the Supreme Court of
India, and the conclusion held that the freedom of expression is important and
legitimate as per the perspective of cinema or any other mode of communication.
- Yamini Sharma & Sonya Mohan, The Censorious Scissors, 4 CMET (2017) 52
- Swapnil Tripathi, The interplay of Freedom of Speech and Censorship of
Movies in India, (2019) PL March 68
- High Court of Madras, 2003 SCC Online Mad 880: (2004) 29 PTC 702
- Shivesh Raj, Film Censorship in India: A Critical Study of Regulatory
Paradigm, (2019) 6.1 IJLPP 13
-  2 SCR 446
-  1 SCC 868
-  2 SCR 512
-  3 SCR 624
-  3 SCR 842
- AIR 1935 Cal 636
- AIR 1950 BOM 210
- AIR 1942 FC 23
- Supreme Court of India, (1989) 2 Supreme Court Cases 574
- S. Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjivan Ram, casemine.in
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Sarvesh Kasaudhan
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