IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY ORDINARY ORIGINAL CIVIL JURISDICTION

Writ Petition No. 2209 of 1987

Petitioner: Shri Anand Patwardhan,

V/s.

Respondents: 

1. Shri Gopal Saksena,
Controller of Programmes, Doordarshan
Mandi House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi -110 001

2. Directorate General of Doordarshan

3. Government of India through Directorate General
Doordarshan, Mandi House, Copernicus Marg New Delhi- 110 001.

4. Union of India

Mr. P.A.Sebastian for the petitioner. Mr. B.G.Rele with Miss S.I .Shah for the Respondents

Coram: ASHOK AGARWAL. J.

Dated:. 30th September,1988

JUDGEMENT

The impugned order of the Respondent No.1, the Controller of Programmes, of the Respondent No.2, the Directorate General Doordarshan dated 3rd April,1987 refusing to screen the petitioner’s documentary “Bombay: Our City” on Doordarshan, to say the least, is wholly unjustified.

2. The petitioner, who has produced and directed several documentary films, has produced the present documentary film “Bombay: Our City”. The petitioner has avered that this film deals with the lives and problems of about 4.5 million of people who live either on the pavements or in the slums of Bombay. It portrays lives and tribulations of those who struggled and sacrificed for the creation of a better society. It portrays people who are at the lowest rungs of society where deprivation and destitution is a way of life. It provides the historical back ground of the people who live in slums and pavements of Bombay and puts the events of last few years in an intelligible framework. It projects the conditions which compelled them to leave their ancestral villages and to migrate to the cities like Bombay where they are denied basic amenities of life. It presents the view points of the dispossessed poor in the city backed by the intellectual analysis of why and how they are being driven out of their pitiful shelters in Bombay’s slums by the ruling powers. The said documeptary was made not only to depict the plight of the slum dwellers but also to show how k©w communal harmony and unity amongst the poor is one of the pre-requisites for cl better future. The said documentary makes an impassioned plea to implement and realise the lofty ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India.

3. The petitioner has further averred and that has not been controverted that the said documentary has won several national and international awards. It was given National Award of the Presidents Gold Medal for the best documentary film of 1985. The citation for the award said that it was for the film’s “deep concern for the problems of urban slums and the courageous presentation of the theme in an objective manner”. It also won the Film Fare award for the best documentary. The International Award which the said documentary bagged was Special Jury Prize at the Cinema du Reel International Film Festival in France in 1986. The said documentary was screened in a number of National and International Film Festivals. They are : 1) Manheim International Film Festival, W, Germany; 2) Berlin International Film Festival, W.Germany; 3) Cinema du Reel International Film Festival, Paris, France; 4) Unesco Film Festival, Bordeaux, France; 5) Margaret Mead Authropological Festival, U.K; 7) London Film Festival, U.K.; 8) Leipzig International Film Festival, E. Germany; 9) Havana International Film Festival, Cuba; 10) Film Festival, Managua, Nicaragua 11) Vancouver .International Film Festival, Canada; 12) Rotterdam Film Festival, Nettherlands, 13) Habitat Seminar, Nairobi, Kenya 14) Grierson Film Seminar, Canada; 15) Hongkong International Film Festival, Hongkong. The film has already been shown on Channel 4, T.V. in U.K. as well as T.V. in Czekoslovakia and in Finland. The prints of the said documentary have been bought by 1) National Film Archives, Pune, 2) I.A.S, Academy
Mussoorie, 3)UNICEF, New Delhi and Unnayan, Calcutta. Several other prints of the films have been leased to various organisations such as Odessa Movies, Kerala and Samvad. The said documentary has been widely acclaimed by national and international critics.

4, The petitioner having achieved the a foresaid distinction in January,1986 submitted the film to the Directorate General of Doordarshan, New Delhi for screening on Doordarshan. The Directorate General took no decision in the matter for more
than a year. After the petitioner had sent several reminders and made visits, the Respondent No,1 by his Impugned letter dated 13th April., 1987 informed the petitioner that it was not possible for Doordarshan to make tise the said documentary. The petitioner, therefore, through his Advocate addressed two letters to the Respondents calling upon them to disclose
reasons for rejecting his documentary. The petitioner not having received any reply has filed the present petition.

5. Mr.Sebastian, the learned Advocate appearing on behalf of the petitioner has submitted that the Government of India, the Respondent No.3, has found the documentary “Bombay: Our City” fit for being screened abroad. Indeed the documentary had been sent to the International Film Festival at Hongkong, the festival of India and Sweden. Yet it has found it unfit for being screened on Doordarshan. According to him, having regard to the distinction achieved by the said documentary from all quarters, it was indeed a film worth being screened on Doordarshan. The Respondents in denying to the film the facility of being screened on T.V. has denied to the petitioner his freedom of expression which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. The impugned order gives no reason for denying such right. Even though the respondents were called upon to assign reasons the same were not furnished. This, therefore, is a fit case where the Respondents should be directed by issue of an appropriate writ to screen the said documentary on Doordarshan.

6. In my judgment there is considerable merit in the submission of Mr.Sebastian and the same, deserves to be accepted. The material arguments which have been disclosed by the petitioner and narrated herein above have not been controverted in the affidavit-in-reply of Smt. Radha Namboodiri, Assistant Station Director, Bombay. It is well settled that even in matters of . passing administrative orders the same should be supported by reasons. Furnishing of reasons reflects the application of mind and non furnishing the same makes orders amenable to the vice of the non application of mind.

7. In the facts and circumstances stated herein above, I see no justification on the part of the Respondents to deny the petitioner’s right to have his documentary “Bombay : Our City” screened on Doordarshan. It cannot now be disputed that the right of expression through the media of Doordarshan is a fundamental right of expression which is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. It would not be open to the Respondent in a cavalier manner, as done in the impugned letter dated 3rd April,1987, to deny such valuable right.

8. The affidavit of Smt.Radha Namboodiri filed in reply to the petitioner makes a reference to the guidelines which have been framed for the purpose of screening of films on Doordarshan, However, that affidavit is silent as to which guideline has been contravened which would justify the refusal on the part of the Respondents to permit the screening of the said documentary on Doordarshan.

9. Mr.Rele , the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondents made a valient effort to oppose the grant of the reliefs claimed in the petition by contending that the documentary contains several references which have by now gone out of date lacking any topicality and contemporary relevance and interest. He submitted that though the documentary was brilliantly made, it cannot suit the mass media particularly Doordarshan. According to him, Doordarshan as a media is quite distinct from short films, in terms of approach, treatment, duration, audience to be catered to etc. He pointed out that the duration of the documentary was over 60 minutes which was far in excess of the normal duration allotted to documentaries on Doordarshan. He further submitted that the action of the National Film Development Corporation (N.F.D.C) in sending the said documentary for being screened outside India had nothing to do with the decision of Doordarshan not to permit its telecast. According to him, the stand of the Government in refusing to screen the documentary was not at all unreasonable or discriminatory. In my judgment, there is no merit in any of the contentions raised by Mr.Rele. I am not prepared to accept the contention that the documentary contains several references which have by now gone out of date, lack in topicality and contemporary relevance and interest. If I may say so it is quite to the contrary. Mr. Rele has been unable to point out any guideline which prescribes that the documentary of a duration of over 60 minutes is not permissible on Doordarshan. Since Mr.Rele himself has been unable to point out any rule or guideline which the documentary has infringed, it will have to be held that the action on the part of the Respondents in denying to the petitioner right to have the said documentary screened on Doordarshan is a denial of the petitioner’s freedom of expression which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

10. In this view of the matter, the petition succeeds and the Rule is made absolute in terms of prayers (a) and (b).

The Respondents shall pay to the petitioner the costs of this petition which is quantified at Rs. 3,500/-.

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