Delhi High Court lays directions regarding the rights of persons with disabilities in respect of the movie ‘Pathaan’

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A petition was filed by four petitioners, out of whom, petitioners 1, 2 and 4 were visually impaired and Petitioner 3 was hearing impaired, in respect of the movie ‘Pathaan’. Prathiba M Singh, J., laid directions regarding the concerns raised by persons with disabilities in view of their cinematic experience of the film and impleaded necessary parties to reach a conclusion.

On the last hearing date, the Court after hearing submissions made by the Counsels for the parties, had considered the legal position regarding the rights of persons with disabilities (RPwD). In terms of the order dated 06-04-2023, the Court directed that sign language interpreters ought to be engaged, to enable Petitioner 3 who is hearing impaired, to understand the court proceedings. Accordingly, the Registrar General of the Court engaged the services of two sign language interpreters, who are simultaneously interpreting the court proceedings for the convenience of the said Petitioner, who was appearing in person.

The Court has also directed a status report to be filed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Ministry of I&B) after conducting stakeholder consultation. It is stated in the said status report that in May, 2023, expressions of interest were invited from various consulting agencies for ‘Providing advanced technology solutions for accessibility in films for persons with disabilities, including hearing and visual impairment.’ In addition, in June and July, 2023, stakeholder consultations were held in Mumbai raising certain practical concerns. However, the Court noted that a perusal of the concerns raised by the film industry would show that the concerns could be easily addressed if some flexibility is shown by the industry.

The Court also noted that the law, i.e., Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 been brought into force almost six to seven years ago, the fact that persons with disabilities are unable to enjoy even basis forms of entertainment such as watching films in cinema halls, is a cause for concern. Moreover, the stand of the Film Federation of India (FFI) and the South Indian Film Chambers of Commerce (SIFCC) that the viewing experience of the vast majority ought not to be sacrificed for the sake of persons with disabilities shows a lack of sensitivity towards persons with disabilities, which is unacceptable, inasmuch as the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 which is the law, has to be given effect to.

The Court observed that in the present case, the purpose for directing the stakeholder consultations was to ensure that the concerns of stakeholders are duly addressed before mandatory guidelines are issued by the Ministry of I&B. However, it appears that some of the parties have expressed concerns, which in the opinion of this Court, may not be valid concerns. Moreover, after having understood the cost implications, for making the movie PATHAAN technically compliant for enabling persons with disabilities to enjoy the movie on OTT platforms, cost also does not appear to be a detrimental factor.

Thus, the Court directed that the Film Federation of India, the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, and the Central Board of Film Certification be impleaded as parties in the petition. The Court also impleaded Indian People’s Theatre Association, Siddharth Nagar, Vakola, Santa Cruz East as party noting that none of the theatre owners or the associations participated in the stakeholder meeting.

[Akshat Baldwa v Yash Raj Films, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6119, decided on 26-09-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Rahul Bajaj, Advocate for petitioner

Mr. Abhishek Malhotra, Advocate for R-1.

Mr. Ravi Prakash (CGSC) with Mr. Farman Ali, Mr. Aman Rewaria, Ms. Astu Khandelwal & Mr. Yasharth Shukla, Advs. for R-2 & 3.

Ms Sneha Jain, Mr Devvrat Joshi, & Mr Angad S Makkar, Advs. for R-4.

Mr. Nitin Sharma, Ms. Deepika Pokharia and Mr. Kuber Mahajan, Advs. for R-5.

Mr. Pranav Sarthi, Mr. Gaurav Vutts, Ms Ayushi Chaurasia, Advs. for R-6.

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