Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In defence of freedom of expression: Way clear for Aarakshan

The Bombay High Court has rejected the petitions challenging the film certification granted to the film, Aarakshan.  In this judgment,  the Bench, relying on the Supreme Court judgment in the Jagjivan Ram case, has said that the threat of unrest or protests cannot be the ground for denying certification to a film.  The petitioners wanted a direction to the directors of the film to screen the film to them, before its release.  Rejecting this plea, the Bench has expressed satisfaction over the CBFC's claim that it has taken precautions like consulting experts belonging to SCs and OBCs, and secured their consent, before granting the film the required certification. Moreover, the respondents have claimed that the film is not against reservation as such, as apprehended by the petitioners.

UPDATE:  The controversy is far from over with demands for ban on the film continuing to be voiced from disparate groups. The U.P.Government has already banned the film for two months. The issue appears to be whether certain characters in the film could use certain expressions, deemed offensive against certain sections of the people, even if the overall thrust of the film is not against reservations per se.  While I don't want to jump to conclusions before watching the film, the resolution of this controversy could offer lessons on how issues involving freedom of expression ought to be addressed. 

UPDATE 2:  With Punjab and Andhra Pradesh too banning the film, the director Prakash Jha has petitioned the Supreme Court for relief.  The case is coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court on August 16. See Court Updates for details.
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