Producer-director Prakash Jha has moved the Supreme Court challenging the ban on the release of his film Aarakshan in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab and suspension of its exhibition in Andhra Pradesh
Though a mention was made before a Bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir for urgent hearing of the petition on Friday itself, the Registry, after the completion of formalities, has listed it for August 16.
The petitioner said the Hindi film, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, was given a U/A certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification for release all over India. The impugned order issued by the three States was based on an apprehension that the film was likely to hurt the feelings of weaker sections and lead to agitations, causing a breach of the peace and tranquillity.
Denying the charge that the film was anti-Dalit, the petitioner said he was always compassionate to the cause of that caste and it was amply demonstrated in his films. “Aarakshan uses the issue of reservation only as a landscape or backdrop on which the story and journey of the protagonist, who is the principal of an institution, is based. The film highlights commercialisation of the education system in the present society. It is not anti-reservation and/or anti-Dalit.”
Mr. Jha said, “Freedom of expression is constitutionally protected and cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group of people.”
The petitioner said the Supreme Court, in its judgment in the case of the Tamil film, Orae oru gramathile, observed that open criticism of government policies and operations was not a ground for restricting the freedom of expression and “we must practise tolerance of the views of others.” He said, “Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person himself.”
Any restraint on exhibition of Aarakshan, certified for public exhibition in accordance with the Cinematograph Act, would violate his fundamental right to speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a).
The petitioner said Rs. 65 crore was already spent on production, publicity and marketing, and third-party rights for distribution and exploitation had been created. He sought quashing of the ban orders and a direction to the three States to provide police protection for the screening of the film.