WAR AND PEACE (JANG AUR AMAN) Vs Censorship
24 April 2003. - The Honorable Justices H. Gokhale
and R. Desai of the Bombay High Court delivered their final verdict
in the matter of the censorship of the film "War and Peace".
It may be recalled that the Central Board of
Film Certification (CBFC) had ordered 21 cuts in this anti-war,
anti-nuclear documentary film. The cuts included demands to delete
footage depicting the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram
Godse, all mention of the Tehelka arms scandal, all statements made
by Dalits and all speeches by political leaders.
We appealed to the Film Certification Appellate
Tribunal (FCAT) who reduced the cuts to two and also asked for an
"addition" to the film. Aggrieved by these interventions
we approached the Bombay High Court for redress. Following his petition,
the CBFC shockingly filed a petition challenging the order of their
own higher body (the FCAT) and demanding that all 21 cuts be re-imposed.
On 5th April during the course of arguments,
the Honourable judges asked the CBFC if they had ever in their history
appealed against the orders of their own higher authority. The answer
came in the negative. The judges then inquired as to what special
interest the CBFC had in the matter of "War and Peace"
that had prompted them to challenge the order of the FCAT. When
no coherent reply was forthcoming the judges asked if the CBFC wanted
to withdraw their petition. The CBFC withdrew their petition challenging
the order of the FCAT.
What remained in contention were the orders
passed by the FCAT. The following are some excerpts from the judgement
delivered by Justices H. Gokhale and Ranjana Desai in the matter.
Excerpts from the Judgement
" In the present case, the petitioner
is trying to espouse the cause of peace and against war. It is in
this context of making of this documentary that the above three
scenes are incorporated therein. It is a matter of his legitimate
right to decide as to what should be included therein and we have
no hesitation in saying that neither of the two cuts recommended
are in any way justified. The Petitioner has only recorded a demonstration
in one scene and then the speech of a Dalit leader in another. It
was his choice to include both these scenes and even what is stated
by the demonstrators or in the speech of the Dalit leader, is not
conflicting with the theme of the documentary. Similarly as far
as the addition recommended is concerned, the Petitioner submits,
and in our view rightly, that the same was totally uncalled for."
.. " Before we conclude, we
would like to record the oft stated proposition that an issue may
be one but there are many facets of looking at it. It is quite possible
that the persons in authority today may feel that what they see
is the only correct facet of it though it may not be so. It is only
in a democratic form of government that the citizens have the right
to express themselves fully and fearlessly as to what is their view
point towards the events which are taking place around. By suppressing
certain view point, it is not only the propagator of the view point
who suffers but it is the society at large and equally the people
in authority who suffer. This is because they fail to receive the
counter view and it may eventually lead to an immense damage to
society due to erroneous decision at the hands of the persons in
authority in the absence of the counter view. That apart, the freedom
of speech and expression is important not merely for the consequences
that ensue in the absence thereof but since the negation of it runs
as an anti-thesis to basic human values, instincts and creativity.
It is high time that the persons in authority realize the significance
of freedom of speech and expression rather than make and allow such
attempts to stifle it."
I am deeply grateful to Advocate P.A. Sebastian
who fought the case in the Bombay High Court, to Ms Nitya Ramakrishna
and M.S. Ganesh who earlier represented the film before the FCAT
in New Delhi and to the thousands of well wishers across the country
and globe. We believe that this judgement will be a shot in the
arm for all democratic and secular forces and for artists, writers,
journalists and filmmakers in particular as it re-establishes the
right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by our Constitution.
Anand Patwardhan, April 25, 2003