Reservation is a social issue on which public discussion must be held: court

The Supreme Court on Friday quashed the Uttar Pradesh government order, which suspended the screening of Aarakshan for two months, holding that the State had no such power after the censor board had cleared the film.

A Bench of Justices Mukundakam Sharma and Anil R. Dave, allowing the writ petition filed by producer Prakash Jha, rejected the contention that screening of the Hindi film would cause a breach of peace and law and order.

It pointed out that the film had been released all over the country, except in Uttar Pradesh,

Some others “are also sensitive States where it is screened without any difficulty.”

Quoting earlier decisions including the one in the case of the Tamil film Orae Oru Gramathile, the Bench said: “It is for the State to maintain law and order. It shall maintain law and order effectively and meaningfully.”

‘It's a delicate issue'

On the report of a high-level committee, appointed by the Uttar Pradesh government, recommending suspension of Aarakshan as it deals with reservation, the Bench said it “is a delicate issue. It is one such social issue on which public discussion is necessary in a vibrant democracy like ours. Such discussions on social issues would bring about awareness for effective working of democracy. In fact, when there is public discussion and dissent, an informed decision can be taken which is necessary in our society.”

The Bench pointed out that members of the Central Board of Film Certification, along with experts and members of the Dalit community, had seen the film and only after all of them gave positive views on the screening of the movie was it cleared.

As the expert body had found that it could be screened all over the country, the State-appointed committee's opinion favouring deletion of certain scenes amounted to pre-censorship, which power is not available to the State, the Bench said.

Senior counsel Harish Salve appeared for the petitioner, Additional Solicitor-General A.S. Chandihok for the Centre and senior counsel U.U. Lalit for the State government.