The Film Padmaavat (earlier named Padmavati) has taught all filmmakers and others concerned with the Film Industry that the fundamental rightguaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of expression) of the Constitution of India are well protected and cannot be compromised easily by anyone, even if the State Governments itself oppose it. Also the filmmakers have beneficially learnt the fact that once the Central Board of Film Certification has cleared a Film for public screening and issued a censor certificate, the screening of the said certified film then cannot be prohibited even if any State Government demands it.

Well, this is not the first time that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has passed such a favorable judgement to the benefit of a Producer. Even earlier in the matter pertaining to Mr. Prakash Jha’s film ‘Aarakshan’ the Hon’ble Supreme Court had held that that state governments cannot ban a film, which has been cleared by the censor board for public screening, on the apprehension that it could cause a law and order problem in that particular State. The Hon’ble court in the said matter after lifting the ban imposed by the State Government of Uttar Pradesh,also held that”It is for the State to maintain law and order effectively and meaningfully.”

Various States of India who have so far sought to ban films citing “uncontrollable law and order situations amongst others” have been unsuccessful so far. Another classic example is a Film “Dam 999” which was purportedly based on the Mullaperiyar Dam row. In the said matter brought before the Hon’ble Supreme Court by the Tamil Nadu Government, the said Court had categorically questioned the State Government of Tamil Nadu by asking “Show us how you can stop screening of the film once it has been cleared by the Censor Board? Reasons like breach of trust and law and order can’t be justified. It is not a ground.”

Even with regards to another Tamil film titled “Ore Oru Gramathile” which had seemingly criticized government policies, the Hon’ble Supreme Court gave a judgement favouring the Producer and held that “The fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Articles 19(2) and the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quick’s and of convenience or expediency. Open criticism of Government policies and operations is not a ground for restricting expression. We must practice tolerance to the views of others. Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person himself.”

Conclusion

All filmmakers therefore need to know that the Board of Film Certification and the Appellate Tribunal formed under the Cinematograph Act 1952 play a very important role in certifying films and even the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India does not ordinarily wish to interfere with that right, as the Cinematograph Act 1952 in itself under Sections 5A and 5B read with other Sections of the said Act, provides the grounds on which a film can be certified or can be refused to be certified by the said Board constituted by the Central Government of India.

Once a film is certified as per the choice of the filmmaker and in accordance with the said Cinematograph Act 1952, then the filmmakers’ legal position is far secured with regards to release of his/her film. Filmmakers should therefore not fall prey to any threats and fully concentrate on completing their films on time and obtaining the censor certificates instead of uselessly worrying of the fate of their filmbefore even grant of censor certificate.

(The author is an Advocate by profession and has been advising and representing various film personalities since almost two decades)

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