In a humiliating verdict, the
High Court severely castigated the State Government’s “irresponsible” decision
to ban a controversial movie and said that the “Constitution does not allow
private censor intrusion.”
The State Government had banned the movie citing protests lodged by Christians
and Muslims that could lead to law and order issues because that the film’s
story attacked the basic tenets of Christianity.
Rejecting these arguments, the court reminded the state that the federal
Censor Board had already cleared the movie and said "The Constitution does not
confer or tolerate such individualized hyper-sensitive private censor intrusion
into and regulation of guaranteed freedom of others." It also highlighted the
concept of freedom of speech and _expression necessary for the growth of the
human mind. The judge also told the state that a film was not like a billboard
or hoarding that involuntarily affected innocent passersby but only those who
consciously bought tickets and that the state had no role to stop the
The interesting facet to this ban was that the authorities who banned the
movie had not even seen the film and just "mechanically certified" the veto of
a few objectors rather than arriving at a decision based on informed
satisfaction. The judge said that the decision was "arbitrary, casual and
wholly irrational exercise of a very sensitive and responsible executive power,
namely the regulation of a cherished, valued and guaranteed fundamental freedom
of _expression." He also lectured the Government on the various works with
differing interpretations of Jesus Christ and directed it to pay small amounts
as compensation to the petitioners who opposed the state’s decision.
The Supreme Court (SC) also threw out a petition from some Christian groups
seeking a ban. The judges asked the petitioners to name countries with large
Christian population who had banned the movies, demanded to know why the movie
was considered offensive when the book was allowed to sell, wondered why an
accepted work of fiction should cause serious concerns for Christians in India.
The petitioners had literally nothing to say to defend their petition.
A Hindi movie by an actor who openly supported the Narmada Bachao Andolan to
construction of a dam seen as an important development project in several states also faced the ire
of the people in those states. As a form of punishment, film distributors and
theater owners in those states refused to buy rights to or screen the movie
saying that they did not agree with the opinions and methods of the actor. The
producer of the movie took the State Government of Gujarat, whose Chief
Minister has often been accused of politically targeting minorities, to the SC.
After listening to all sides, the court said that since this was not a ban of
the movie by the state and a business decision by the film distributors and
theater owners, it cannot force them to show the movie.
Several other states in India had also banned the movie to seek political
dividends. Indian politicians are masters at dividing the nation by religion,
caste, race, language, region, and sex.