The bench said, “The courts should be extremely slow in passing any kind of restraint or order stopping a creative man from writing drama, a book, philosophy or projecting his thoughts in a film or theatre art.”
The CJI said, “It is worthy to mention that right to freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and should not be ordinarily interfered with.
The Supreme Court said on Thursday that courts must be “extremely slow” to interfere with artistic freedom in works like films and rejected a plea to ban the November 17 release of a film, “An Insignificant Man”+ , based on the life of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud appeared to rebut violent elements protesting against the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film “Padmavati” when it said, “A thought-provoking film does not mean it should be puritanical. A film has to be expressive to provoke the conscious and subconscious mind of a viewer.”
Last week, the court had dismissed a petition seeking a stay on the release of ” Padmavati “, saying it was an issue squarely within the adjudication domain of the Central Board of Film Certification and the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.
On Thursday, the bench said, “The courts should be extremely slow in passing any kind of restraint or order stopping a creative man from writing drama, a book, philosophy or projecting his thoughts in a film or theatre art.” It disposed of the petition while clarifying that the trial court would decide the case on merit.
The film based on Kejriwal’s life was objected to by Nachiketa Walhekar, who is facing trial for allegedly throwing ink at the AAP chief in 2013. His counsel said the film incorporated electronic media recording of the alleged incident to project Kejriwal as a victim, and hence violated his client’s right to a fair trial.
He said filmmakers should either delete the TV footage from the film or put a bold disclaimer about the alleged offence being under the scrutiny of a court.The bench refused to heed these arguments and remained focused on its respect for the right to free speech and expression.
Apex court: Right to freedom of speech sacrosanct
The CJI said, “It is worthy to mention that right to freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and should not be ordinarily interfered with. When the CBFC has granted permission for the release of the film after scrutiny, this court should exercise utmost restraint in not granting any injunction.”
Given the vulnerability of writers, authors, filmmakers and novelists at the hands of dogmatic groups capable of violently airing disagreement with artistic expression, it said, “Be it noted that any film, drama, theatre or novel is a creation of artistic expression. An artist has freedom to express himself/herself in a manner which is not prohibited in law.” SC went a step further and said even the prohibitive areas of freedom of speech and expression, specified under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, could not be a ground to kill artistic creativity.
“Such prohibition is not meant to crucify the right of an expressive mind,” it said. “History of the world records there are authors who expressed thoughts by choosing words, phrases and expressions to create characters who may look very different than what an ordinary man can conceive. A thought-provoking film does not mean it should be in every way puritanical.”
Creators of artistic works must have freedom to express themselves freely even if their views are not to everybody’s liking. Mob opinion can’t be allowed to dictate limits to freedom of expression.
Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions to be placed on freedom of expression, but imposing bans at drop of a hat merely because some people or even a majority feel offended is by no means a reasonable restraint.