With an extended weekend upon us, we have curated a selection of interesting extracts from a variety of sources for your reading pleasure – in addition to this edition of your favourite publication, of course! And in keeping with the trademark Hindi film tradition of having something for every section of the audience, we have chosen diverse pieces for varied groups of readers.
The first extract is primarily for those charged with the sacred responsibility of upholding the Indian Constitution, especially the Central Government, at whose doorstep the proverbial buck stops in matters administrative. It is that very Constitution that we are quoting in a week in which we celebrate the coming into force of that critical sacrament that forms the basis of the rule of law in our nation, and the rights of Indian citizens. We quote arguably the most important section of them all, Article 19, which guarantees certain freedoms to Indian citizens:
“19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc
(1) All citizens shall have the right
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”
Our second reading recommendation is aimed at those state governments and local administrations that are quick to impose bans and restrictions on our films for the flimsiest of reasons. If they still feel that such embargoes are not in direct contravention of the freedoms guaranteed by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, they would do well to go through last week’s (February 18, 2018) order of the Supreme Court.
Here are some selective extracts from what the highest court in the land – through a three-Judge Bench that included the Chief Justice of India – had to say specifically on the enforceability of a ban against the exhibition of Padmaavat in some states (Writ Petition No. 36/2018. Viacom 18 Media Private Limited & Ors. Versus Union of India & Ors.):
“Once the parliamentary legislation confers the responsibility and the power on a statutory Board and the Board grants certification, non-exhibition of the film by the States would be contrary to the statutory provisions and infringe the fundamental right of the petitioners.”
“It has to be borne in mind, expression of an idea by any one through the medium of cinema which is a public medium has its own status under the Constitution and the Statute. There is a Censor Board under the Act which allows grant of certificate for screening of the movies. As we scan the language of the Act and the guidelines framed thereunder it prohibits use and presentation of visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups. Be that as it may. As advised at present once the Certificate has been issued, there is prima facie a presumption that the concerned authority has taken into account all the guidelines including public order.”
“It should always be remembered that if intellectual prowess and natural or cultivated power of creation is interfered without the permissible facet of law, the concept of creativity paves the path of extinction; and when creativity dies, values of civilization corrode.”
“We have no hesitation in stating by way of repetition and without any fear of contradiction that it is the duty of the State to sustain the law and order situation whenever the film is exhibited, which would also include providing police protection to the persons who are involved in the film / in the exhibition of the film and the audience watching the film, whenever sought for or necessary.”
Now that’s what you call an emphatic and unambiguous clarification on the powers (or rather, the lack thereof) of a state government to impose restrictions on the exhibition of a duly certified film. The next time a state government or any other body feels similarly inclined to announce a ban, they would do well to refer to the above Supreme Court order to avoid being held in contempt of court.
Our final recommendation is for all of us, not only as members of the Indian film fraternity, but also as proud citizens of a great nation whose cultural heritage is too ancient, too rich and too varied to ever be threatened by a motion picture or any other work of art.
It is a poem written by Martin Niemöller, a German pastor who lived through the horrors of Nazi Germany, and it speaks of what makes tyranny possible – the silence of good people.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”