SC Upholds Freedom of Speech and Expression of Filmmakers

November 17, 2017

The Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra yesterday refused to stay the release of movie “An Insignificant Man”. The movie is based on Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and showcases the formation and rise to power of Aam Aadmi Party in India.

The Supreme Court’s order was made in the wake of a petition filed in the Supreme Court by one, Nachiketa Walhekar, wherein he prayed for issue of order for staying nationwide release of the impugned movie on the ground that the movie contained a video clip pertaining to the Petitioner. The Petitioner in the case further contended that he had Constitutional rights under Articles 14 and 21 to be not projected in a manner the film is going to depict.

Bench’s Observation and Verdict:

The Supreme Court in the case upheld the freedom of speech and expression of filmmaker and stated that that freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with.

That the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) has granted the certificate and only something with regard to the petitioner, which was shown in the media, is being reflected in the film, this Court should restrain itself in not entertaining the writ petition or granting injunction.

That a film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind.

That a thought provoking film should never mean that it has to be didactic or in any way puritanical. It can be expressive and provoking the conscious or the sub-conscious thoughts of the viewer. If there has to be any limitation, that has to be as per the prescription in law.

That the Courts are to be extremely slow to pass any kind of restraint order in such a situation and should allow the respect that a creative man enjoys in writing a drama, a play, and a book on philosophy, or any kind of thought that is expressed on the celluloid or theater, etc.

Take Away- The Supreme Court’s verdict in the case is a noteworthy judgment in the wake of numerous PILs instituted with the Court against movies on frivolous grounds. The Supreme Court’s verdict reinstates the essence of democracy and constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression.

The movie has hit the theaters today.

Freedom of Speech and Expression of an Author

In a recent verdict, passed by the Supreme Court on on October 13th in the case of K.L.N.V. Veeranjaneyulu v. Union of India & Ors., the Supreme Court had upheld the fundamental right of an author or writer to speak out ideas freely and express thoughts adequately. The Supreme Court in the case was hearing a plea filed by the Petitioner to issue a writ of mandamus to ban the book “Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu” written by Professor Kancha Ilaiah and also to ban Chapter 9 of a book titled “Post Hindu India” and Chapter 9 of “Hindutva Mukt Bharat”.

The Supreme Court Bench headed by the Chief Justice in the case stated that “we do not intend to state the facts in detail. Suffice it to say that when an author writes a book, it is his or her right of expression. We do not think it would be appropriate under Article 32 of Constitution of India that this Court should ban the book/books”. The Apex Court in the case also stated that curtailment of individual writer’s/ author’s right to freedom of speech and expression shall never be lightly viewed. In view of the said observations, the Supreme Court declined the Petitioner’s prayer in the case.

About the Author

Shilpi Sharan

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Shilpi Sharan is the Editor at Vakilno1.com – an Advocate with extensive knowledge in myriad fields of Law. She has a flair of writing and has legal publications in national and international law magazines to her credit. She focuses on legal research and aims at raising public awareness of laws in India.