allahabad high court

Allahabad High Court: In two Public Interest Litigations (‘PILs') seeking relief to direct the opposite parties to remove the objectionable dialogues and scenes from the Film ‘Adipurush', which is depicting religious Gods and other icons and characters in disgusting and vulgar manner, thereby hurting the sentiments of public at large who worship those religious Gods / Icons, the division bench of Rajesh Singh Chauhan and Shree Prakash Singh, JJ. has directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (‘IB Ministry') to revisit the issue by constituting an expert committee within a week from the knowledge of this order, and to file the report of the committee along with the personal affidavit of the Secretary, IB Ministry, by the next date of listing. Further, it directed the Chairman, Board of Film Certification to file his personal affidavit apprising the Court as to whether the guidelines for certification of films for public exhibition have been followed in its letter and spirit while issuing certificate to the film. The Bench also directed the Director of the film, and the dialogues writer of the film to appear in person along with their personal affidavits explaining their bonafide.

The Court noticed that the issue in hand is a sensitive issue as it not only touches the very sentiments and emotions of public at large who worship of Lord Rama, Devi Sita and Lord Hanuman etc. but also hurts the emotions of those persons, as those religious Gods have been shown in a film ‘Adipurush' in a shameful and disgusting manner as if they are fictional persons or as if they are comic characters.

The Court said that the Gods have been shown in a film by the film makers including the dialogue writers without taking care of holiness and sanctity of those characters. Not only the dialogues of the film are so substandard having cheap language, but so many scenes of the film depicting Devi Sita are disgraceful to her very character and some scenes depicting wife of Vibhishana are prima-facie obscene, which are unwarranted and uncalled for. Even the depiction of Ravan, his Lanka etc. is so ridiculous and cheap. Those facts have been narrated in both the PILs properly enclosing the relevant material.

The Court reiterated that in the name of freedom of speech and expression no one can be permitted to do anything which is against the decency or morality or against the public order etc. This film, prima facie, do not qualify the test as prescribed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

The Bench said that by making such a film, the film makers and the dialogue writer have not taken care of feelings and emotions of public at large, as they have depicted the characters and dialogues in a shameful and vulgar manner, knowingly that Lord Rama, Devi Sita and Lord Hanuman are worshiped by the large number of persons of the society, Further, the Censor Board has not discharged its legal duty while issuing certificate to release the film without following the guidelines issued under Section 5-B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Further, the Competent Authority of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has yet not taken suitable action immediately after release of the film, despite having proper mechanism to take appropriate steps to suspend or to revoke the certificate or to stop the exhibition of the film even after noticing the huge unrest of public at large.

As per the Court, if such type of illegal and immoral acts of the film makers are not checked at the earliest, more films are likely to be produced, touching sensitive aspects of other religions besides Hindu religion. Hence, the Court said that some stringent and deterrent action by the Competent Authority of the Central Government would be required in the present case in the interest of the public at large.

The Court noted that Section 5-E of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 authorises the Central Government to suspend a certificate granted to the film for a particular period as it thinks fit or may revoke such certificate, if the film is being exhibited in contradiction of the provisions of the Act and the Rules thereof. Further, Rule 33 of the Cinematograph Certification Rules, 1983 specifically provides that when a film is altered by excision, addition, colouring or otherwise after it has been certified under these rules, it shall not be exhibited unless the portion or portions excised, added, coloured or otherwise altered, have been reported to the Board.

The Court before issuing any interim order or any coercive order against the opposite parties including the film maker, producer, dialogues writer, granted one opportunity to the IB Ministry to revisit on the grievance of the public, invoking its power under Section 6 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

The Bench further said that if it is found that the Censor Board has not followed the specific guidelines while issuing certificate to the film, appropriate order may be passed under Section 5E of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. It further directed the IB Ministry to revisit the issue by constituting a committee of at least five experts, amongst them two experts must be well versed with the Valmiki Ramayana, which is said to be a main source of this film and Tulsikriti Ramcharit Manas and other religious epics etc. to see properly as to whether the story of the film have been depicted in conformity with the Valmiki Ramayana.

The matter will next be taken up on 27-07-2023.

[Kuldeep Tiwari v. Union of India 2023 SCC OnLine All 359, Order dated 28-6-2023]

Also read: [Adipurush Controversy]: Will I&B Ministry take steps in public interest by invoking revisional power under Cinematograph Act; Allahabad High Court asks Centre

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Counsel for Petitioner: Advocate Ranjana Agnihotri, Advocate Sudha Sharma

Counsel for Respondent: Advocate Ashwani Kumar Singh

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