Observing that the Hindi film Delhi-6 seen in its entirety generates empathy for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Delhi High Court has quashed an FIR against film director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and others lodged by Delhi MLA Jai Kishan.
‘No intention to insult’
Quashing the FIR lodged under The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and The Protection of Civil Rights Act at the Mandir Marg police station in New Delhi in 2009 on a petition filed by Mehra and others, Justice Manmohan said: “The present film seen in its entirety generates empathy for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. No intention to insult the members of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes community can be attributed to the petitioners in the present case.”
“The present film in no manner supports the practice of untouchability in any manner. The acts attributed to the petitioners do not amount to preaching and practicing untouchability….” Justice Manmohan stated.
The MLA in his complaint submitted to the police had alleged that a character in the film enacting the role of a lady sweeper had been insulted and thereby the entire Balmiki Samaj had been insulted.
‘A strong Message’
Seeking dismissal of the petition, counsel for the MLA submitted that it was liable to be rejected on the sole ground that an FIR under investigation could not be quashed.
Seeking quashing of the FIR, counsel for the petitioners submitted that the film conveyed a strong message to the public at large against the caste system and was not intended to hurt the sentiments of any section or society.
Petitioners’ counsel further submitted that the impugned FIR had been lodged by the MLA only to gain cheap popularity and with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the petitioners who were attempting to create awareness about the condition of the Scheduled Castes community.
Allowing the plea, Justice Manmohan observed in his 37-page judgment that “in fact, a film is an expression of an idea which is protected by Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. Freedom of expression is of inestimable value in a democratic society based on the rule of law. Our written Constitution guarantees not only freedom of speech but also freedom after speech”.
Justice Manmohan also dismissed the plea by the complainant that an FIR could not be quashed when the investigation was on, saying that “this Court has the power to quash an FIR under investigation at the initial stage itself”.