M/S Prakash Jha
Productions & ANR Vs. Union of India & Ors.
O R D E R
writ petition is filed by the petitioners praying for the reliefs specifically
set out in the prayer portion of the writ petition. One of the reliefs that is
sought for in this writ petition is to strike down the provision of Section 6
(1) of the U.P. Cinemas (Regulation) Act (hereinafter referred to as "the
Act") being allegedly ultra vires to the Constitution of India. The other relief
that is sought for is to quash and set aside the decisions taken by the respondents,
namely State of Punjab, State of Andhra Pradesh and State of Uttar Pradesh suspending
the screening of the film 'Aarakshan' in their respective States for a
was issued on this writ petition making the same returnable today so as to enable
the three State Governments to submit their reply/counter affidavit. However, at
the stage of issuing notice itself, we were informed by the counsel appearing
for the State of Punjab and Andhra Pradesh that so far as their States are concerned,
they had withdrawn the order of suspension of screening of the film
counsel appearing for the State of Punjab and the State of Andhra Pradesh are
present in the Court. Today also they stand by the same statement which they had
made on the last date, meaning thereby, that they had lifted the orders of suspension
of screening of the film in their respective States. Therefore, to our understanding,
the aforesaid film is being screened in the aforesaid two States also as on
this date. This petition, therefore, has been rendered infructuous so far as the
States of Andhra Pradesh and Punjab are concerned.
State of Uttar Pradesh has filed the counter affidavit opposing the prayer in the
writ petition which is on record. We have heard the learned counsel appearing
for the parties extensively today.
Harish Salve, learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioners has not pressed
the prayer so far as constitutional validity of Section 6 of the Act is concerned.
However, on his submission, we are keeping the said issue open to be agitated
in an appropriate case in future, if necessary. He, however, has challenged the
legality of the decision of the Uttar Pradesh Government suspending the
screening of the film 'Aarakshan' in the entire State of Uttar Pradesh.
According to him, the
aforesaid exercise of power of suspension of the screening of the film amounts to
exercising the power of pre-censorship which is being exercised by the
Government, although no such power vested on it. According to him, the said power
of censorship is vested in the Central Board of Film Certification, (hereinafter
referred to as "the Board") and in the Central Government as provided
for in the provisions made in The Cinematograph Act, 1952. He has also submitted
that the power that is sought to be exercised in the present case under Section
6(1) of the Act is also without jurisdiction as such power could be exercised only
when a film is being screened and shown in the public hall and also when a contingency
of the nature as mentioned in the said Section arises.
He submits that on
satisfying the preconditions and only in such a situation a power is vested in
the State Government to suspend the screening of the film for a specified period.
He also submits that the aforesaid decision of the State Government is in
violation of the provisions of Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India and, therefore,
the same is required to be struck down and quashed.
have also heard Mr. Chandiok, learned Additional Solicitor General, who submits
that after a certificate has been issued to a particular film by the Censor
Board, the said film could be screened in the entire country and the order
which is passed by the State Government is not envisaged as it practically prohibits
screening of the film in the entire State of Uttar Pradesh.
U.U. Lalit, learned senior counsel appearing for the State of Uttar Pradesh
has, however, taken us through the contents of the counter-affidavit in support
of his contention that the prayer in writ petition cannot be granted by this
Court. He has submitted that a very high-level Committee has seen the film and
thereafter has given an opinion, according to which if and when the concerned film
is shown there is likelihood of breach of peace and also breach of law and
order situation and, therefore, the aforesaid decision of suspending the
screening of the film "Aarakshan" in Uttar Pradesh, which has been
taken in order to preserve and upkeep the law and order situation in the State
should be upheld.
order to appreciate the aforesaid contentions of the counsel appearing for the parties,
we have gone through the pleadings of the parties alongwith the documents relied
upon as also the decisions which are referred to and relied upon.
have also perused the provisions of Section 6 of the Act which is practically the
foundation and basis of the present case. Section 6(1) of the Uttar Pradesh Cinemas
(Regulation) Act, 1955 reads as follows: "6. Power to the State Government
or District Magistrate to suspend exhibition of films in certain cases - (1) The
State Government, in respect of the whole of the State of Uttar Pradesh or any part
thereof, and the District Magistrate in respect of the district within his jurisdiction
may, if it or he, as the case may be, is of opinion that any film which is
being publicly exhibited, is likely to cause a breach of the peace, by order, suspend
the exhibition of the films and thereupon the films shall not during such suspension
be exhibited in the State, part or the district concerned, notwithstanding the certificate
granted under the Cintmatograph Act, 1952."
going through the records, we find that the film 'Aarakashan' was submitted to the
Central Board of Film Certification on 12.07.2011 for certification. Upon such submission
of the film, the Chairperson of the Board, in terms of the provisions of the
Act and the Rules, invited the legal expert and another expert who is related
to dalit movement to watch the film at the time when the Examining Committee
was previewing the film.
Chairperson also saw to it that all the four members of the Examining Committee
are members belonging to scheduled casts/scheduled tribes and OBC category. The
said members of the Examining Committee along with the legal expert as also the
expert related to dalit movement were present during the preview of the film. The
experts as also the Examining Committee gave their approval for grant of censorship
certificate and screening of the film. The Examining Committee decided to give U/A
certificate to the film under the theme category "social". However,
while taking the aforesaid decision, a view was expressed by the members of the
Examining Committee for deletion of the word 'dalit' from the trailor in reel
no. 1, which was deleted by the producer of the film, and the same was treated as
voluntary cut. Thereafter, the certification was granted and a certificate was
issued for screening of the film. The said certificate is annexed with the
to grant of the aforesaid certificate, the film is being screened all over
India except for the State of Uttar Pradesh where it is not being exhibited
because of the aforesaid decision of the State Government. The State of Uttar
Pradesh has given certain reasons in their counter affidavit for the action
taken leading to the issuance of the order suspending the screening of the film.
They have also stated in their counter affidavit that the exhibition of the film
'Aarakshan' if allowed would definitely cause an adverse effect on the law and
order situation in the State.
attention is also drawn by the counsel appearing for the State of U.P. to paragraph
3 of the said affidavit wherein the relevant portion of the report given by the
High Level committee constituted by the State Government is extracted. A bare
perusal of the same would indicate that in the report the High Level Committee has
suggested deletion of some portion from the film without which, according to them,
the film cannot be screened as that may cause an adverse effect on the law and
order situation in the State.
dealing with the said contentions, we would like to deal with the provision of the
Act on the basis of which the aforesaid decision is taken. There is no dispute
that the impugned decision is taken in the purported exercise of power under
Section 6 of the Act. A bare perusal of the aforesaid provision in Section 6 of
the Act would make it crystal-clear that the power vested therein could be exercised
by the State under the said provision when a film which is being publicly
exhibited could likely cause a breach of peace. Only in such circumstance and event,
an order could be passed suspending the exhibition of the film.
expression 'being publicly exhibited' and the word 'suspension' are relevant for
our purpose and, therefore, we are giving emphasis on the aforesaid expression
and the word. When it is said that a film is being publicly exhibited, it definitely
pre-supposes a meaning that the film is being exhibited for public and in doing
so if it is found to likely to cause breach of peace then in that event such a power
could be exercised by the State Government. Such an extra-ordinary power cannot
be exercised with regard to a film which is yet to be exhibited openly and publicly
in a particular State. This view that we have taken is also fortified from the use
of the word 'suspension' in the said section. The word `suspension' envisages
something functional or something which is being shown or is running. Suspension
is always a temporary phase, which gets obliterated as and when the previous position
is restored. Therefore, the power as vested under Section 6 of the Act could not
have been exercised by the State of Uttar Pradesh in view of the fact that the said
film was not being exhibited publicly in the theatre halls in U.P. Consequently,
at this stage, when the film is not screened or exhibited in the theatre halls publicly
and for public viewing, neither an opinion could be formed nor any decision
could be taken that there is a likelihood of breach of peace by exercising
power purported under Section 6 of the Act.
counsel appearing for the State has also submitted that in fact the film already
is being exhibited in the State of Uttar Pradesh as a High Level committee has
seen the film. We cannot accept the aforesaid position as the expression specifically
uses the word 'publicly exhibited' meaning thereby that it is being exhibited all
over and publicly for public viewing in the State.
the contention of the State of U.P. that some of the scenes of the film could
create a breach of peace or could have an adverse effect on the law and order
situation cannot be accepted as this film is being screened in all other States
of India peacefully and smoothly and in fact some of the States, where this film
is being screened, are also similarly sensitive States as that of the State of U.P.
In such States the film is being screened without any obstruction or difficulty
and without any disturbance of law and order situation.
far the contention of the counsel appearing for the State of Uttar Pradesh that
the issue of reservation is a delicate issue and is to be handled carefully is concerned,
we are of the considered opinion that reservation is also one of the social issues
and in a vibrant democracy like ours, public discussions and debate on social
issues are required and are necessary for smooth functioning of a healthy
democracy. Such discussions on social issues bring in awareness which is
required for effective working of the democracy. In fact, when there is public
discussion and there is some dissent on these issues, an informed and better decision
could be taken which becomes a positive view and helps the society to grow.
may, at this stage, appropriately refer to the decisions of this Court in the
case of S. Rangaranjan Vs. P. Jagjivan Ram & Ors. reported in (1989) 2 SCC 574.
In paragraph 36 of the said judgment, this Court has stated thus:- "36. The
democracy is a government by the people via open discussion. The democratic form
of government itself demands its citizens an active and intelligent participation
in the affairs of the community. The public discussion with people's participation
is a basic feature and a rational process of democracy which distinguishes it from
all other forms of government. The democracy can neither work nor prosper
unless people go out to share their views. The truth is that public discussion on
issues relating to administration has positive value. What Walter Lippman said in
another context is relevant here: When men act on the principle of intelligence,
they go out to find the facts.... When they ignore it, they go inside themselves
and find out what is there. They elaborate their prejudice instead of
increasing their knowledge".
paragraph 35, this Court has also stated that in a democracy it is not necessary
that everyone should sing the same song. Freedom of expression is the rule and
it is generally taken for granted.
could also be made to the decision of this Court in Union of India Vs. K.M. Shankarappa
reported in (2001) 1 SCC 582. In the said case constitutional validity of Sections
3, 4 and other Sections of the Cinematograph Act, 1958 were challenged. In paragraph
8 of the said judgment, this Court has stated that once an expert body has considered
the impact of the film on the public and has cleared the film, it is no excuse to
say that there may be a law and order situation and that it is for the State
Government concerned to see that the law and order situation is maintained and
that in any democratic society there are bound to be divergent views.
the present case, the Examining Committee of the Board had seen the film along with
the experts and only after all the members of the Committee as also the two experts
gave positive views on the screening of the film, thereafter only the
certificate was granted. Therefore, since the expert body has already found
that the aforesaid film could be screened all over the country, we find the opinion
of the High Level committee for deletion of some of the scenes/words from the film
amounted to exercising power of pre-censorship, which power is not available either
to any high-level expert committee of the State or to the State Government. It appears
that the State Government through the High Level Committee sought to sit over
and override the decision of the Board by proposing deletion of some portion of
the film, which power is not vested at all with the State.
is for the State to maintain law and order situation in the State and, therefore,
the State shall maintain it effectively and potentially. Once the Board has
cleared the film for public viewing, screening of the same cannot be prohibited
in the manner as sought to be done by the State in the present case. As held in
K.M Sankarapaa (Supra) it is the responsibility of the State Government to
maintain law and order.
the entire facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the considered opinion
that the present writ petition is required to be partly allowed in terms of the
observations made herein.
therefore, set aside and quash the decision of the State Government suspending
the screening of the film 'Aarakshan' in the State of Uttar Pradesh in the
light of the observations made and we partly allow the petition to the
(Dr. MUKUNDAKAM SHARMA)
(ANIL R. DAVE)
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