IN THE HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY


Writ Petition No. 1958 of 1994

Decided On: 06.01.1997

Appellants: Shri Anand Patwardhan
Vs.
Respondent: The Union of India (UOI) and Anr.

Hon’ble Judges:
A.P. Shah, J.

Counsels:
For Appellant/Petitioner/Plaintiff: P.A. Sebastian, Adv.

For Respondents/Defendant: L.S. Vyas and Shobha Joshi, Advs.

Subject: Constitution

Catch Words:

Acts/Rules/Orders:
Constitution of India – Article 19(1)(a); Cinematograph Act, 1952 – Sections
4, 4A and 5B

Cases Referred:
Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1962 S.C. 305; S. Rangarajan
v. P. Jagjivan Ram, 1989(2) S.C.C. 574; Life Insurance Corporation of India
v. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah, A.I.R. 1993 S.C. 171; Bhagwati Charan Shukla v.
Provincial Government, A.I.R. 1947 Nagpur 1; K.A. Abbas v. Union of India,
1970(2) S.C.C. 780; Ramesh s/o Chotalal Dalal v. Union of India, 1989(1)
Bom.C.R. 239 (S.C.), 1988(1) S.C.C. 668; Raj Kapoor and Ors. v. State and
Ors., 1980(1) S.C.C. 43; Anand Patwardhan v. U.O.I., 1997(1) Bom.C.R. 90,
1996(2) Mh.L.J. 685

Disposition:
Petition allowed

Case Note:

Constitution ¬ documentary film ¬ Sections 4 and 58 of Cinematograph Act,
1952 – petition filed for seeking directions to respondents to telecast
petitioner¹s documentary film deals with various social and religious issues
¬ respondent contended that film would have adverse impact upon masses most
of them out of which are average and illiterate which lead to communal
strife ¬ effect of film must be judged from standard of reasonable,
strong-minded, firm and courageous man and not those of weak and vacillating
minds ¬ movie had been given OU¹ certificate by Board of Film Censor which
is constituted by knowledgeable and competent persons ¬ petition allowed and
respondent directed to screen film.

JUDGMENT

A.P. Shah, J.

1. This petition under Article 226 seeks a writ of mandamus directing the
Union of India and Doordarshan to telecast the petitioner’s documentary film
” Ram -Ke-Naam” on the Doordarshan on its national programme.

2. The petitioner is a well-known documentary film maker. The petitioner
produced in 1991 a documentary film of ninety minutes duration called
” Ram-Ke-Naam” (in the name of God). The film was granted “U” certificate by
the Censor Board in 1992. The film deals with the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri
Masjid dispute and various social and religious issues arising therefrom.
The film was selected as the best investigative documentary for the year
1993 and given National Award by the Government of India. It was adjudged as
the best documentary in the year 1992 by the jury of the Filmfare Award. It
secured a best documentary award at Frie-bourg Switzerland in 1992 and
Citizens Award at Yamagota, Japan in 1993 and Ecumenical Prize at Nyon,
Switzerland. The film was selected as the only Indian documentary for
screening in International Film Festivals such as International Film
Festival at Berlin, 1993, Sydney Film Festival, 1993, Film Festival of
Willington in New Zealand, 1993 and the Film Festival of Japan.

3. The petitioner submitted a preview copy of the said film to the
Doordarshan with a covering letter dated 28th December, 1992 wherein he
requested the second respondent the Director General, Doordarshan, to
telecast it on the National network of the Doordarshan. Since the letter of
the petitioner failed to evoke any response from the second respondent, the
petitioner addressed another letter dated 7th April, 1993. As the first
respondent failed to respond to the petitioner’s letter second time as well
either in word or in deed, the petitioner’s advocate addressed a letter to
the first respondent in which the latter was called upon to screen the
petitioner’s film on its National network. It was stated in the letter that
the petitioner’s film is an attempt to stem and counteract the fissiparous
and sectarian tendencies and to promote integrative forces in the Indian
Society. It was stated that in the present milieu of strife and bigotry, the
film is capable of making a signal contribution for the unity and integrity
of India. Why Doordarshan ignores such a film is really intriguing and
fraught with hidden meanings which the Indian citizens have a right to know.
Since even the advocate’s notice failed to evoke any response from the
respondents, the petitioner has approached this Court under Article 226.

4. The petitioner contends that Doordarshan being a State as envisaged under
Article 12 of the Constitution, it must act within the structure of the
Indian Constitution and its actions must be informed with fairness, justice,
non-arbitrariness and the principles of natural justice. The petitioner
contends that he has a constitutional right to know why his film was not
screened on the Doordarshan and what reasons led to the decision of the
Doordarshan not to screen the film. By refusing to screen the film, the
Doordarshan has deprived the petitioner of his freedom of expression
guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The refusal of
the Doordarshan to telecast the petitioner’s film also denies to the Indian
citizens their right to be informed of and enlightened about important
developments relating to Babri Masjid dispute which has affected the public
and democratic character of the Indian State. The petitioner contends that
Part IV-A of the Constitution casts a fundamental duty on the Indian
citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all
the people of India, transcend religious, linguistic and regional or
sectional diversities to value and preserve the rich heritage, our composite
culture and to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of
inquiry and reforms among other things. The petitioner says that the duties
and values mentioned above are inherent in the said film which makes
imperative for the respondents to disseminate it to the maximum extent
possible inasmuch as it will lead to the fulfillment of a constitutional
mandate.

5. Before the hearing commenced the film was screened for the Court. The
lawyers of both sides and the petitioner also remained present. The film
traces the genesis of the Ayodhya conflict from the time the mosque was
built in 1528 to the revival of the conflict around the time of
independence, when in December 1949 an idol of Lord Ram was installed
resulting in the area being declared disputed and the mosque being closed.
The film maker has interviewed an old mahant of Ayodhya who was among those
who had placed the idol of Ram inside the mosque. The film also interviews
the mullah who had been conducting Namaz at the Masjid till he was stopped
from doing so on the orders of the District Magistrate. The film critically
examines the theory circulated to the masses through video films showing the
idol of Ram descending from heaven. The film demonstrates that many of those
marching in the cause have not a clue about the period of Lord Ram’s birth
though they are quite sure about where he was born. At one point, an
activist describing himself as a law student is asked which century Ram was
born in, “I am, in the first year of law College”‘ he protests, “may be they
will tell us about this in the second or third year”.

6. The film then goes to show how blind faith has been exploited for
political aggrandisement and how ordinary Indians are victims of such a
propaganda. The film effectively portrays destruction in terms of human
life, property loss following the Rathyatra undertaken in 1991. The film
concentrates on the reactions of the common people who constitute the vast
majority of the Indian population and pans over a group of poor peasants and
agricultural workers who discuss their problems in the background of green
wheat and yellow mustard fields. Their problems are that of falling terms of
trade “Only our grains are cheap, all other things are expensive”. They do
not approve of the proposed razing of the Masjid “would not we feel sad if
someone came and destroyed our mandir”. How can then we approve of some
other place of worship being demolished?”. One person who comes across
prominently in the said film is Lal Das, the Court appointed Pujari of the
Ram temple at Ayodhya who almost becomes the “alternative” voice of
” moderate”. “Liberal” Hinduism through his frequent appearance or
voiceovers. The film ends with Kabir’s famous couplet reviling “The
hypocrisy of priesthood” :-

“Saints I see the world is mad If I lie they trust me If I tell the
truth they beat me

The Hindu claims Ram is the one The Muslim claims Rahim Then they beat
and kill each other Neither knowing the essence

The world goes on like this in vain and yet they call me mad But Kabir
says, look Who is the one insane ?”

7. “Ram-Ke-Naam” had been given “U” certificate by the Central Board of Film
Censor. In this connection, I may refer to the relevant provisions of
Cinematograph Act, 1952 which is an Act to make provisions for the
certification of cinematograph films for exhibition and regulation,
exhibition by means of Cinematograph. The Act provides for Board of Film
Censors. Section 4 of the Act provides for examination of films. A film is
examined in the first instance by an Examination Committee, under section
4-A, and in, certain circumstances, it is further examined by a Revising
Committee under section 5. Members of both the Committees are expected to
set out not only their recommendations but also the reasons therefor in
cases where there is difference of opinion amongst the members of the
committee. Section 5-A of the Act provides that if after examining a film or
having it examined in the prescribed manner, the Board considers that the
film is suitable for unrestricted public exhibition, such a certificate is
given which is called “U” certificate. Section 5-B of the Act provides for
guidance in certifying films. The said section 5-B provides as follows :-

“5-B. Principles for guidance in certifying films – (1) A film shall not
be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority
competent to grant the certificate the film or any part of it is against the
interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India the security of the
State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or
morality, or involves defamation or contempt of Court or is likely to incite
the commission of an offence.

(2) Subject to the provisions contained in sub-section (1) the Central
Government may issue such direction as it may think fit setting out the
principles which shall guide the authority competent to grant certificates
under this Act in sanctioning films for public exhibition.”

8. Section 5-C of the Cinematograph Act provides for the constitution of
Appellate Tribunals, consisting of persons who are familiar with the social,
cultural or political institutions of India, have special knowledge of the
various regions of India and also social knowledge of films and their impact
on society, to hear appeals from the orders of the Censor Board. In
addition, there is also an overall revisional power in the Central
Government to call for the record of any proceeding in relation to any film
at any stage, where it is not made the subject matter of appeal to the
Appellate Tribunal, to enquire into the matter and make such order in
relation thereto as it thinks fit, including a direction that the exhibition
of the film should be suspended for a period not exceeding two months. Under
the newly added sub-section (5) of section 6, the Central Government has
also been given revisional powers in respect of a film certified by the
Appellate Tribunal on the ground that it is necessary to pass an order in
the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the
State, friendly relations with foreign States of public order or decency or
morality.

9. Mr. Sebastian, learned Counsel for the petitioner, submitted that refusal
of the respondents to telecast the film “Ram-Ke-Naam” is a clear violation
of the petitioner’s fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the
Constitution. He urged that the film carries a strong message for unity and
secular India and there is no justification to prevent its telecast on
Doordarshan. He branded the action of the respondents in refusing to screen
the film as totally unfair, unjust and arbitrary. The Counsel further urged
that the Censor Board has approved the film and granted “U” certificate and
since the guidelines of the Doordarshan in telecasting the film cannot be
substantially different from the guidelines laid down under the
Cinematograph Act, it is necessary to issue appropriate writ to telecast the
petitioner’s film on Doordarshan in its National Network. Mr. Vyas, Counsel
for the respondents, however submitted that the result of telecasting the
petitioner’s film on T.V. would be that there is likelihood that members of
both the communities will rise in passion and anger against each other and
take to acts which would lead to communal violence and riots. Mr. Vyas urged
that T.V. has reached the remotest corners of the country. It has a wide
audience which mainly consists of illiterate and average persons who will be
largely affected due to screening of the movie. He, therefore, justified the
decision of the Doordarshan not to telecast the film on Doordarshan. Mr.
Vyas also took exception to certain scenes in the film and particularly to a
scene where a Karsevak in his interview justifies even the assassination of
Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse. Mr. Vyas says that at least such scenes
should not be allowed to be screened on T.V. Mr. Vyas lastly contended that
this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the writ petition as the entire
cause of action has taken place, outside Mumbai.

10. The principal question which falls for my consideration is whether the
refusal of the Doordarshan to telecast the petitioner’s film violates the
petitioner’s fundamental right of freedom of expression under Article
19(1)(a) ?

Freedom of speech and expression has been recognised as one of the
preeminent rights in a democratic Government, the touchstone of individual
liberty. Justice Cardozo of the U.S. Supreme Court characterized it as
” …the matrix of the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of
freedom”. In Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, MANU/SC/0090/1961.
Mudholkar, J., said -

“The courts must be ever vigilant in guarding perhaps the most precious
of all the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. The reason for this is
obvious. The freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount
importance under a democratic Constitution which envisages changes in the
composition of legislature and Governments and must be preserved.”

11. It is now well settled by series of judgments of the Supreme Court that
freedom of speech and expression includes the right to propagate one’s views
through the print media or through any other communication channel e.g.
radio and T.V. In S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram and others,
MANU/SC/0475/1989, K. Jagannatha Shetty, J., speaking for the Bench observed
that the freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) means the right to express
one’s opinions by words of mouth, writing, printing, picture or in any other
manner. It would thus include the freedom of communication and the right to
propagate or publish opinion. The communication of ideas could be made
through any medium, newspaper, magazine or movie. But this right is subject
to reasonable restrictions in the larger interests of the community and
country set out under Article 19(2). While dealing with the role of the
courts in striking balance between the interest of freedom of expression and
social interest, the Supreme Court observed -

“However, there must be a compromise between the interest of freedom of
expression and social interests. Court cannot simply balance the two
interests as if they are of equal weight. Court’s commitment to freedom of
expression demands that it cannot be suppressed unless the situations
created by allowing the freedom are pressing and the community interest is
endangered. The anticipated danger should not be remote conjectural or
far-fetched. It should have proximate and direct nexus with the expression.
The expression of thought should be intrinsically dangerous to the public
interests. It should be inseparably locked up with the action contemplated
like the equivalent of a “spark in a powder keg”.

12. In Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah,
MANU/SC/0521/1992. Ahmadi, J., as His Lordship then was observed :-

“Freedom of speech and expression is a natural right which a human being
acquires on birth. It is, therefore, a basic human right. The words “freedom
of speech and expression” has to be broadly construed to include the freedom
to circulate one’s views by words of mouth or in writing or through
audio-visual instrumentalities. It, therefore, includes the right to
propagate one’s views through the print media or through any other
communication channel e.g. the radio and the television. Every citizen of
this free country, therefore, has the right to air his or her views through
the printing and/or the electronic media subject of course to permissible
restrictions imposed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The print
media, the radio and the tiny screen play the role of public educators, so
vital to the growth of a healthy democracy. Freedom to air one’s views is
the life line of any democratic institution and any attempt to stifle,
suffocate or gag this right would sound a death-knel to democracy and would
help usher in autocracy or dictatorship. It cannot be gainsaid that modern
communication mediums advance public interest by informing the public of the
events and developments that have taken place and hereby educating the
voters, a role considered significant for the vibrant functioning of
democracy. Therefore, in any set up, more so in a democratic set up like
ours, dissemination of news and views by popular consumption is a must and
any attempt to deny the same must be frowed upon unless it falls within the
mischief of Article 19(2). It follows that a citizen for propagation of his
or her ideas has a right to publish for circulation his views in
periodicals, magazines and journals or through the electronic media since it
is well known that these communication channels are great purveyors of news
and views and make considerable impact on the minds of the readers and
viewers and are known to mould public opinion on vital issues of national
importance. Once it is conceded, and it cannot be indeed disputed that
freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of circulation and
propagation of ideas, there can be no doubt that the right extends to the
citizen being permitted to use the media to answer the criticism levelled
against the view propagated by him. Every free citizen has an undoubted
right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this,
except to the extent permitted by Article 19(2), would be an inroad on his
freedom. This freedom must, however, be exercised with circumspection and
care must be taken not to trench on the rights of other citizens or to
jeopardize public interest. It is manifest from Article 19(2) that the right
conferred by Article 19(1)(a) is subject to imposition of reasonable
restrictions in the interest of, amongst others, public order, decency or
morality or in relation to defamation or incitement to an offence. It is,
therefore, obvious that subject to reasonable restrictions placed under
Article 19(2) a citizen has a right to publish, circulate and disseminate
his views and any attempt to thwart or deny the same would offend Article
19(1)(a).”

13. The Supreme Court then proceeded to hold that heavy burden would lie on
the authorities to justify restriction on the freedom envisaged by Article
19(1)(a). It was observed that our Constitution recognises the need to place
reasonable restrictions on grounds specified by Art. 19(2) and section 5-B
of the Act on the exercise of the right of speech and expression. It is for
this reason that the need for prior restraint is recognised and our laws
have assigned a specific role to the censors as such is the need in a
rapidly changing societal structure. But since permissible restrictions,
albeit reasonable, are all the same restrictions on the exercise of the
fundamental right under Art. 19(1)(a) such restrictions are bound to be
viewed as anathema, in that, they are in the nature of curbs or limitation
on the exercise of the right and are, therefore, bound to be viewed with
suspicion, thereby throwing a heavy burden on the authorities that seek to
impose them. The burden would, therefore, heavily lie on the authorities
that seek to impose them to show that the restrictions are reasonable and
permissible in law.

14. The main defence raised on behalf of the respondents is that the
petitioner’s film will have an adverse impact on the masses and particularly
those average and illiterate Indians. Mr. Vyas has argued that telecasting
of film would lead to communal strife and might even induce forces to take
to the streets and indulge in rioting and looting causing loss to the human
life and property. Vivian Bose, J., as he then was in the Nagpur High Court
in the case of Bhagwati Charan Shukla v. Provincial Government, A.I.R. 1947
Nagpur 1 has indicated the yardstick by which this question has to be
judged. There at page 18 of the report the Court observed that the effect of
the words must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded,
firm and courageous men and not those of weak and vacillating minds, nor of
those who scent danger in every hostile point of view. This approach has
been time and again accepted by the Supreme Court in judging the effect of
exhibition of a film or the right of a book.

15. In this regard it may be necessary to refer to two leading judgments of
the Supreme Court. The first judgment is in the case of K.A. Abbas v. Union
of India, MANU/SC/0053/1970. There K.A. Abbas the petitioner made a
documentary film called “A Tale of Four Cities”, which attempted to portray
the contrast between the life of the rich and the poor in the four principal
cities of the country. The film included certain shots of the red light
district in Bombay. Although the petitioner applied to the Board of film
Censors for a “U” certificate for unrestricted exhibition of the film, he
was granted a certificate only for exhibition restricted to adults. The
petitioner then filed the writ petition in the Supreme Court. At the hearing
of the petition the Central Government indicated that it had decided to
grant a “U” certificate for unrestricted exhibition of the film without the
cuts previously ordered. Hidaytulla, C.J., exhaustively dealt with the
question and noted the statutory requirements. In that film there was a
scanning shot of a very short duration much blurred by the movement of the
photographer’s camera, in the words of Chief Justice, in which the red light
district of Bombay was shown with the inmates of the brothels waiting at the
doors or windows. Some of them wore abbreviated skirts bare legs up to the
knees and sometimes a short way above them. This was objected to. The film
was shown to the learned Judges in the presence of lawyers. The learned
Chief Justice at page 468 of the report addressed himself to the question;
” How far can these restrictions go and how are these to be imposed”. The
Court examined the provisions of section 5-B(2) of the Act. After examining
the relevant provisions and large number of authorities the Chief Justice
noted that the task of the censor was extremely delicate and its duties
cannot be the subject of an exhaustive set of commands established by prior
ratiocination. The Supreme Court at page 474 of the report observed as
follows :-

“Sex and obscenity are not always synonymous and it is wrong to classify
sex as essentially obscene or even indecent or immoral. It should be our
concern however, to prevent the use of sex designed to play a commercial
role by making its own appeal. This draws in the censor’s scissors. Thus
audience in India can be expected to view what equanimity the story of
Oedipus son of Latius who committed patricide and incest with his mother.
When the seer Tiresias exposed him, his sister Jocasta committed suicide by
hanging herself and Oedipus put out his own eyes. No one after viewing these
episodes would think that patricide or incest with one’s own mother is
permissible or suicide in such circumstances or tearing out one’s own eyes
is a natural consequence. And yet if one goes by the letter of the
directions the film cannot be shown. Similarly, scenes depicting leprosy as
a theme in a story or in a documentary are not necessarily outside the
protection. If that were so Verrier Elwyn’s Phulmat of the Hills or the same
episode in Henryson’s Testament of Cressaid (from where Verrier Elwyn
borrowed the idea) would never see the light of the day. Again carnage and
bloodshed may have historical value and the depiction of such scenes as the
sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah may be permissible, if handled delicately and as
part of an artistic portrayal of the confrontation with Mohammed Shah
Rangila. If Nadir Shah made golgothas of skulls, must we leave them out of
the story because people must be made to view a historical theme without
true history ? Rape in all its nakedness may be objectionable but Voltaire’s
Candide would be meaningless without Cunegonde’s episode with the soldier
and the story of Lucrece could never be depicted on the screen.”

16. The Chief Justice observed that our standards must be so framed that we
are not reduced to a level where the protection of the least capable and the
most depraved amongst us determines what the morally healthy cannot view or
read. The standards that we set for our censors must make a substantial
allowance in favour of freedom thus leaving a vast area for creative art to
interpret life and society with some of its foibles along with what is good.
We must not look upon such human relationship as banned in toto and forever
from human thought and must give scope for talent to put them before
society. In our scheme of things, the Chief Justice noted, ideas having
redeeming social or artistic value must also have importance and protection
for their growth.

17. The second decision of the Supreme Court to which a reference may be
made at this stage is the decision in Ramesh s/o Chotalal Dalal v. Union of
India, 1989(1) Bom.C.R. 239 (S.C.) : 1988(1) Supreme Court Cases 668. A
practising advocate of this Court filed a writ petition under Article 32 in
the Supreme Court for prohibiting the respondents from releasing or
screening the serial titled “Tamas” and to enforce the petitioner’s
fundamental right under Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution and declaring
the screening or televising of “Tamas” as violative of section 5-B of the
Cinematograph Act, 1952. One Javed Ahmed Siddique also filed a writ petition
in this Court praying for similar reliefs. The learned Single Judge of this
Court while admitting the petition granted stay of further telecasting of
the said serial on T.V. till further orders. The respondents challenged the
said order before the Division Bench. The two learned Judges, namely,
Justice Lentin and Justice Mrs. Sujata Manohar (as she then was) saw the
complete serial and vacated the stay by an order dated January 23, 1988. The
judgment was impugned in the special leave petition which came to be heard
along with the writ petition filed under Article 32. Serial “Tamas” was
based on a novel written by Shri Bhisma Sahni in 1974. It depicted how
during the period prior to the partition in India communal violence was
generated by fundamentalists and extremists in both communities, how
innocent persons were duped into serving the ulterior purpose of
fundamentalists and communalists of both sides and extremist elements in
both communities infused tension and hatred for their own ends. It further
showed that realisation ultimately dawned as to the futility of it all and
finally how inherent goodness in human mind triumphed and both communities
learnt to live in amity. The Supreme Court observed :-

The potency of the motion picture is as much for good as for evil. If
some scenes of violence, some nuances of expression of some events in the
film can stir up certain feelings in the spectator, an equally deep, strong,
lasting and beneficial impression can be conveyed by scenes revealing the
machinations of selfish interests, scenes depicting mutual respect and
tolerance, scenes showing comradship, help and kindness which transcend the
barriers of religion. What is necessary sometimes is to penetrate behind the
scenes and analyse the causes of such conflicts. The attempt of the author
in this film is to draw a lesson from our country’s past history, expose the
motives of persons, who operate behind the scenes to generate the foment
conflicts and to emphasize the desire of persons to live in amity and the
need for them to rise above religious barriers and treat one another with
kindness, sympathy and affection. It is possible only for a motion picture
to convey such a message in depth and it is able to do this, it will be an
achievement of great social value.”

“The argument that “Tamas” was not a historical movie but it merely
takes into account certain events from history and builds upon them the
story with imagination and perception of reality is without any force.
” Tamas” takes us to historical past – unpleasant at times but revealing and
instructive. Though a writer should cling to truth and right but a measure
of accommodation in the very interests of truth itself is necessary. Naked
truth in all times will not be beneficial but truth in its proper light
indicating the evils and the consequences of those evils is instructive and
that message is there in “Tamas”. The book is being taught in various
universities. There has been no adverse reactions to the novel during the
past fourteen years.”

18. As observed by the Supreme Court the effect of exhibition of a film has
to be judged from the standards of reasonable strong-minded, firm and
courageous men or as has been said in English law “the man on the top of the
Clapham omnibus”, and not those of weak and vacillating minds, nor of those
who scent danger in every hostile point of view. The Cinematograph Act
itself contains several provisions to ensure the fulfillment of the
conditions laid down in section 5-B and to ensure that any film which is
likely to offend the religious susceptibilities of the people are not
screened for public exhibition. The high-power committee of Film Censor
Board has approved the exhibition of the film and given “U” certificate. The
entire structure of the film of the petitioner is based on the ideology of
social justice for lower classes and castes. The film presents the
Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute not as a Hindu Muslim problem but as a
secular world view versus non-secular world view. The protagonists in the
said film are, therefore, not Muslims or Hindus, but Indians especially the
poor and the working class. A powerful plea for communal amity and
co-existence is structurally incorporated in the film. Throughout the film
those who are intolerant and those who spread hatred in the name of God are
condemned. This is meant to create in the audience a response of disgust
directed against the perpetrators of communal hatred. The film unmistakably
condemns hate-mongering communalists but it painstakingly underlines the
fact that they do not represent all Hindus. Pujari Laldas in his interview
after witnessing the Karsevak’s attack on the mosque, says that “the ideals
of Ram have been murdered”. He adds that the storm of communal hatred will
pass and sanity will one day return. Laldas is depicted as the voice of
tolerant and humanistic Hinduism. Under these circumstances the argument of
Mr. Vyas that telecast of the movie is likely to generate communal strife
amongst the communities must be rejected. The argument of Mr. Vyas that an
average or illiterate person is likely to be adversely affected by the
screening of the movie is also without any merit. Illiterates are not devoid
of common sense, or unable to grasp the calumny of the fundamentalists and
extremists when it is brought home to them in action on the screen. The
filmmaker has made a serious attempt to examine the Babri Masjid dispute
from a secularist angle with the basic object to convey a message of
communal harmony and amity. The apprehension expressed by Mr. Vyas that the
exhibition of the film will provoke the people to commission of offences is
completely baseless. On the other hand, viewed from the healthy and common
sense point of view it is more likely that it will prevent incitement to
such offences in future by extremists and fundamentalists.

19. Mr. Vyas has taken objection to the sequence on the bridge in Ayodhya
where a Karsevak justifies the murder of father of the nation. We have
already noted that the movie had been given “U” certificate by the Board of
Film Censors. The Board consists of people who are knowledgeable and
competent in their respective fields. The Board did not find it necessary to
excise the bridge sequence. In Raj Kapoor and others v. State and others,
MANU/SC/0210/1979 Justice Krishna Iyer has observed that a certificate by a
high-powered Board of Censors with specialised composition and statutory
mandate is not a piece of inconsequence. Doordarshan takes decision on the
basis of same guidelines. The petitioner’s film must be judged in its
entirety. The film has a theme and it has a message to convey. The question
is whether the bridge sequence goes well with the theme and promotes a
message. In my opinion, the question has to be answered in the affirmative.
The entire film relies not so much to the didactic technique of using a
heavy handed commentary but on juxtaposing events, speeches and interviews
which speak for themselves. The bridge sequence is meant to create in the
audience a response of disgust directed against the perpetrators of communal
hatred. Indeed when audience realize that some of the same people who are
fanatical also believe that it was good that Gandhiji was killed, it is true
though sickening moment of revelation. Mr. Sebastian submitted and in my
opinion rightly that even ardent supporters of Ramjanmabhoomi would not
approve of Gandhiji’s murder. It is such a revelation that has power to open
their eyes to the corrosive nature of religious hatred.

20. Lastly, few words about Mr. Vyas’s objection relating to the
jurisdiction of this Court. The objection is required to be stated only to
rejected. Union of India and Doordarshan are very much present in Bombay.
The petition was admitted by the Bench despite the objection of
jurisdiction. It will not be proper to dismiss the writ petition on this
technical objection particularly when at stake is the issue of fundamental
right enshrined in Article 19(1)(a).

21. Mr. Sebastian brought to my notice that in respect of another film the
order of this Court for telecasting the film was virtually negated by
exhibiting the film at midnight. He, therefore, requested that the film
should be exhibited during reasonable hours. He requested for issuing
similar directions to the respondents as in Anand Patwardhan v. U.O.I.,
MANU/MH/0004/1997. Mr. Sebastian also made an appeal to the Court to issue a
directive to exhibit the film on national channel. I hereby direct the
respondents to telecast the petitioner’s film “Ram-Ke-Naam” on Channel I or
II (Metro Channel) within two months from today between 6.00 to 11.00 p.m.
if shown between Monday to Saturday or in the morning or evening slot if
shown on Sunday. I also recommend to the Doordarshan that considering the
powerful message of communal harmony conveyed by the film, the Doordarshan
may consider its telecast on Channel I which has the maximum viewership.

Rule is made absolute accordingly. No order as to costs.

 

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