9 March 2004
DD ordered to telecast Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Father, Son and Holy War’
A bench of the Mumbai High Court comprising of Hon’ble Justice A.P Shah and Hon’ble Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari has ordered Doordarshan (DD) to telecast the film ‘Father, Son and Holy War’ within 3 months. Written orders are expected today.
In 1995 this documentary dealing with the relationship between patriarchy and communal violence in India won two National Awards (‘Best Investigative film’ and ‘Best film on Social Issues’). The film was then submitted for telecast on the national network of Doordarshan (DD). After DD failed to respond for over two years, a writ petition was filed in 1998 asking the High Court to order its telecast on the grounds that DD was being arbitrary and had violated Patwardhan’s right to Freedom of Expression and the public’s right to Information. In February 2001, the Bombay High Court after viewing the film and hearing arguments, directed DD to telecast the film within 6 weeks.
After 6 weeks DD requested the High Court for more time to comply with its order. The Court granted two more weeks but instead of telecasting the film, DD filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against the High Court order.
The Supreme Court of India found that the original selection committee formed by DD was not correctly constituted as it had neither independent members nor female members as required under its own guidelines. In December 2001 the Supreme Court directed the respondents to re-constitute a proper committee to review the film within three months. A year passed without any action taken and finally, under pressure from a contempt of court petition, DD reconstituted a proper screening committee. This committee unanimously recommended that the film be telecast by DD. Inexplicably DD still rejected the film under the pretext that Prasar Bharati members did not approve of the film being telecast.
The Supreme Court disposed of the contempt petition, allowing Patwardhan to approach an appropriate authority if still aggrieved. Once more the plea for DD to telecast ‘Father, Son and Holy War’ was admitted to the Mumbai High Court in 2003. As before, Advocate P.A. Sebastian represented the petitioner.
History reveals that ‘Father, Son and Holy War’ is not the only film to have compelled Patwardhan to knock on the doors of justice for telecast on DD. Three of his earlier films which were conferred National Awards by the Government of India had to face long drawn legal battles to ensure that the Right to Freedom of Expression as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution was not denied. In all three cases the courts ruled in Patwardhan’s favour. After years of litigation DD was directed by the courts to screen ‘Bombay Our ACity’ (completed in 1985 , DD telecast in 1989 ), ‘In Memory of Friends’ (completed in 1990, DD telecast 1996 ) and ‘Ram Ke Naam’ (completed in 1992 , DD telecast 1997 ). ‘Father, Son and Holy War’ is next on the anvil of justice. History so far has shown that the battle for justice even though delayed, was not denied.