India Intelligence Report

   AP High Court Castigates Govt on Film Ban



  • AP High Court quashes ban on movie

  • Rebukes the state Government for not applying its mind

  • Says freedom of speech and _expression is important value of the Constitution

In a humiliating verdict, the Andhra Pradesh 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 screening.

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 stop the 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.