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Censorship Case: S. Rangarajan Vs. P. Jagjivan Ram

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.[1]

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 Kuldip Singh

Relevant Laws:
  1. Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution
  2. Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution
  3. Section 5, 5A, 5B & 7B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
  4. Rule 24 & Rule 24(1) of the Cinematograph (Certificate) Rules, 1983
  5. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Facts:
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.[2]

Issue:
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[4]
  • Rajkapoor Vs Laxman[5]
  • Naraindas Vs State of Madhya Pradesh[6]
  • Sakal Vs Union of India[7]
  • Kamal Krishna Vs Emperor[8
  • Manohar Vs Government of Bombay[9] and
  • Niharendu Dutt Majumdar Vs Emperor[10]
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. [11]

Critical Analysis:
From the case of S. Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjivan Ram, we 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). [12]

Conclusion:
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.

The 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.

End-Notes:
  1. Yamini Sharma & Sonya Mohan, The Censorious Scissors, 4 CMET (2017) 52
  2. Swapnil Tripathi, The interplay of Freedom of Speech and Censorship of Movies in India, (2019) PL March 68
  3. High Court of Madras, 2003 SCC Online Mad 880: (2004) 29 PTC 702
  4. Shivesh Raj, Film Censorship in India: A Critical Study of Regulatory Paradigm, (2019) 6.1 IJLPP 13
  5. [1971] 2 SCR 446
  6. [1988] 1 SCC 868
  7. [1980] 2 SCR 512
  8. [1974] 3 SCR 624
  9. [1962] 3 SCR 842
  10. AIR 1935 Cal 636
  11. AIR 1950 BOM 210
  12. AIR 1942 FC 23
  13. Supreme Court of India, (1989) 2 Supreme Court Cases 574
  14. S. Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjivan Ram, casemine.in

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Sarvesh Kasaudhan
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