Order to extend ban runs counter to the Constitution, says Sohan Roy

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government, seeking its response to a writ petition filed by the producer and director of Dam 999, Sohan Roy, challenging the six-month ban the government imposed on its screening in the State. A Bench of Justices A.K. Ganguly and J.S. Khehar issued notice after hearing counsel Deepak Prakash, appearing for the petitioner, and Additional Advocate-General Guru Krishna Kumar, appearing for Tamil Nadu.

The Bench posted the case for further hearing on January 13.

Interim stay sought

The State government had initially banned the film for two weeks; after giving the petitioner a personal hearing, it passed an order on December 16 last year, extending the ban for six months. The petitioner filed the writ petition seeking quashing of the order, and an interim stay on its operation.

Mr. Roy alleged that the ban was extended without any valid reason. Passed under Section 7 the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1955, the order went against the Constitution, violating as it did Entry 60 of the Union List of Schedule VII of the Constitution.

‘Fundamental right violated'

He contended that the order also violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

Since the initial order, dated November 24, 2011, was patently void, illegal and invalid, it could not be extended by another order.

“The language of the impugned order amply shows that Tamil Nadu is approaching the issue with a prejudiced mind against the petitioner as he is a resident of Kerala.”

Mr. Roy questioned the subjective satisfaction of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, supposedly arrived at on the basis of narrow political objectives and said it should not come in the way of the right guaranteed to him under the Constitution.

‘Political expediency'

The impugned order had no constitutional, much less any legal basis and did not come under limitations of reasonable restrictions. The fundamental freedom under Article 19 (1) (a) could be reasonably restricted only for the purpose mentioned in Article 19 (2), and the restriction must be justified “on the anvil of necessity, and not [on] the quicksand of convenience of political expediency.”