They are only showing a dam and saying if it collapses people will suffer: Justice Ganguly

The Supreme Court on Friday sought Tamil Nadu's response to a writ petition filed by producer and director of Dam 999 Sohan Roy that challenged the ban imposed for six months on the film in the State.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Ganguly and J.S. Khehar was initially inclined to stay the order but Additional Advocate-General Guru Krishna Kumar, appearing for Tamil Nadu, insisted that the State must be allowed to put in its response before any order was passed as the film was an emotive issue relating to Mullaperiyar dam involving Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

“No reference to Mullaperiyar”

Earlier, counsel Deepak Prakash, appearing for the petitioner, strongly opposed the ban. He said the film was selected for Oscar and there was no reference anywhere in the film about the Mullaperiyar dam.

Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Jain submitted that once the Censor Board certified a film for screening all over the country, the States had no power to suspend its screening. The Supreme Court, in the judgment in the case of Aarakshan, which was banned in Uttar Pradesh, rejected the ground of possible breach of law and order.

The Tamil Nadu government initially banned the film for two weeks, and after giving the petitioner a personal hearing, passed an order on December 16, 2011, extending the ban for six months. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed the present writ petition seeking to quash the order and an interim stay of its operation.

‘No emotive issue’

When Mr. Kumar submitted that the order was passed under Section 7 of the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Act, Justice Ganguly said: “They are only showing a dam and saying if it collapses, people will suffer. There is no emotive issue involved in this film; there is no allegation of obscenity. How can you suspend screening of the film? If there is law and order [problem] the government should tackle it. Your order affects the right to freedom of speech and expression. You have to go by constitutional principles. The Constitution is the same for the entire country. There cannot be one Constitution for the country and one for your State.”

Mr. Kumar said while the Supreme Court had dealt with general social issues where there could be two views, never before had a specific issue that was sub judice been the subject matter of a dispute.

The situation in the border areas of the two States had been brought under control only now. “The movie showing eventuality of a disaster is something serious. We don't want the situation to flare up again by the screening of the film.”

The State would file an affidavit explaining the situation and sought time for doing so. The Bench asked Tamil Nadu to file its response by January 25 and directed that the matter be listed for further hearing before an appropriate Bench (since Justice Ganguly is due to retire on February 1) on February 7.