Supreme Court lifts Uttar Pradesh ban on ‘Aarakshan’ (Lead)

August 19th, 2011 - 9:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh Bachchan New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday “quashed and set aside” the two-month ban imposed by the Uttar Pradesh government on the screening of filmmaker Prakash Jha’s “Aarakshan”.

An apex court bench of Justice Mukundakam Sharma and Justice Anil R. Dave said the state government cannot seek deletion of certain portions of the film as this amounted to pre-censorship.

Having quashed the “suspension of screening” order, the court said: “Reservation is a very delicate and also one of the social issues and in a vibrant democracy like ours public discussion is necessary for its (democracy’s) functioning.”

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sharma said: “In fact, such discussions on social issues bring awareness which is required for effective working of democracy. In fact, when there is such public discussion and dissent there would be an informed public opinion which is necessary for our society.”

Referring to an earlier judgment of the apex court, the order said: “In democracy, it is not necessary that every body should sing the same song.”

After chiding the Uttar Pradesh government for suspending screening of the film, the court said: “Once the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has cleared the film for public view, the screening of the film can’t be stopped.”

The court noted that in the case of “Aarakshan”, the examining committee of the CBFC had viewed the film along with experts active in Dalit movement after which it was cleared for public screening.

Referring to the Uttar Pradesh government’s contention that reservation was a very delicate issue and certain scenes in “Aarakshan” had the potential of affecting the law and order situation, the court said: “It was for the state to maintain law and order situation effectively and meaningfully.”

Rejecting the Uttar Pradesh government’s contention that the High Level Committee (HLC) set up to review the film has suggested deletion of some portions, the court said that “powers of pre-censorship is non-existent and thus not available to either HLC or the state government”.

Rejecting the Uttar Pradesh government’s contention that the screening of “Aarakshan” would definitely cast an adverse affect on the law and situation in the state, the court said the film has been screened without any problem all over the country even in the states which are reservation-sensitive.

Earlier appearing for Prakash Jha, the producer-director of “Aarakshan”, senior counsel Harish Salve said the Uttar Pradesh government had no right to resort to pre-censorship. Salve said the state government had no right to control the content of the film.

The senior counsel said if such a situation was allowed then even after certification by CBFC, all the states would try to impose their own pre-censorship. He said that at best, state government could appeal against the certification by the CBFC but not confront the film makers with conditions of pre-censorship.

Senior counsel U.U. Lalit who appeared for Uttar Pradesh government said the content (scenes and dialogues) of the film could not be insulated from the government power to suspend screening of the film. He said the decision to suspend the screening was rooted in the scenes and dialogues of the film.

“Aarakshan”, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, deals with caste-based reservations in the Indian education system.

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