An attempt was made in 1987 by the M.G. Ramachandran regime to empower the State to ban films, but the move did not fructify.
His government had sought to pass an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1955.
The move, however, was stalled when the then Governor referred it to the attorney general and advocate general for legal opinion and the matter was not heard of since.
The amendment sought to prohibit exhibition of films derogatory to the conduct of MLAs and ministers. It also envisaged a ban on films containing material amounting to contempt of the House or likely to incite the public against the members.
Under its provisions, any person who exhibits such films was sought to be made liable for imprisonment for a term up to three years.
The bill came under severe attack from the Opposition.
Minister for tourism, prohibition and electricity V.V. Swaminathan justified it, arguing there was a tendency on the part of film producers to denigrate MLAs and such portrayal of elected representatives in bad light would lead to people losing faith in democratic institutions, such as the legislature.
One of the members who vehemently opposed the bill was Congress member T.S.R. Venkataramanan, elected from Tenkasi constituency. He said it was a colourable exercise of power under the Constitution and in effect the State would become a super censor.
Recalling the hasty manner with which the bill was introduced, Mr. Venkataramanan told The Hindu on Wednesday that though normally copies of bills would be sent to members of the House well in advance, the controversial bill reached them only on the day of its introduction.
“The government had prepared it in a hurried manner and all the members received cyclostyled copies,” he said.
Mr. Venkataramanan had argued that by their proper functioning, MLAs and ministers could create conditions in which people themselves would disapprove of any attempt to show their representatives in bad light.
His remarks had evoked a rebuke from the then speaker P.H. Pandian.
DMK member Rahman Khan had contended that the measure was unconstitutional as the House could not legislate on a subject that came under the domain of Parliament.
After a film was certified by the Censor Board, it would enjoy unrestricted exhibition for 10 years anywhere in the country and any attempt to prohibit its screening would amount to restricting the freedom of expression,” he had said.
Advocate and writer S. Senthilnathan, who was then secretary of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers’ Association, had mobilised writers against the Act.
He said though the bill was passed in the Assembly, the Governor sent it for legal opinion and it did not see the light of the day.