Constitution of India, 1950 – Articles 19(2) and 25 – Hurting the Religious Sentiments – Ban on Movie – Public Interest Litigation filed for restraining on the exhibition of Hindi feature film/movie titled PK on ground of hurting the religious sentiments of all the communities and mainly of Hindus under Articles of Constitution of India – Held, Petitioner failed to show that film offended the religious sentiments of Hindus for the reason of showing a self-styled Godman preaching Hindu religion by fooling his followers – It was not the case of Petitioner that such self-styled Godman did not exist or that several of them do indeed indulge in for their own gains by fooling their followers – On record that movie had depicted a reality of life – Making fun of or showing the said Godman in bad light could not be said to be making fun of the Hindu religion – Petition dismissed.
CASE- AJAY GAUTAM ………………….Petitioner.
UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS……Respondent
JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY- RAJIV SHAI ENDLAW, J.
This petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, filed as Public Interest Litigation (PIL), seeks a restraint on the exhibition of the Hindi feature film/ movie titled PK, whether it be in movie theater or on the television, on the ground of the same hurting the religious sentiments of all the communities and mainly of Hindus and thereby violating the rights of Hindus and Articles 19(2) and 25 of the Constitution of India.
1. That certain sequence of the said feature film shows many Hindu Gods and Goddesses in wrong perspective
2. That after the release of the said feature film, due to large scale protest and demonstrations seeking on the film, the law and order situation has been affected
3.That the said film makes a mockery of Hindu religion and ways of worship of Hindus
4. That the movie defames and maligns the Hindu culture and religion and ways of worship of Hindu
5.That the central character of the feature film played by the actor Aamir Khan, is of an alien stranded on earth who has lost his spaceships remote control device and which he subsequently finds to be in possession of a self-styled Tapasvi Maharaj played by actor Saurabh Shukla and who has started fooling people on the pretext of having found the same in Himalayas
6. That the movie then shows the central character along with female lead in the film played by actress Anushka Sharma confront the said Godman Tapasvi Maharaj and with the assistance of a television channel show the people the true colours of the said self-styled Godman
7. That the central character of the film during his search for his remote control device is shown questioning various Hindu religious practices of offering donations at temples, idol worship, thereby mocking the century-old customs and sacred beliefs of Hindus
8. That the central character of the film is also shown sticking the pictures of Lord Hanuman and Lord Krishna on his face, in order to protect himself from slaps
9. That the film also shows Hindu Gods as laapata (untraceable)
10.That in one sequence of the film, the central character makes the statement, of "God not working either for the reason of his battery having expired or on account of manufacturing defect"
11.That the film also makes a satire of the Hindu practice of offering milk to Lord Shiva
12. That the film also makes fun of the Hindu practice of idol worship, shastang dandvat and calls them andhvishwas
13. That the Film Censor Board should not have granted U/A certificate to the Sai Film as the theme of the film offends Hindu sentiments, religious practice and their faith and ways of worship and the right to propagate, profess and practice religion enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India; the film is thus also violative of Guidelines 2(xii) and 2(xiii) of Film Certification Guidelines formulated by the Central Government
14.That one of the members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Panel which has given the U/A certificate to the said film has a history of being biased towards certain filmmakers and the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India has suggested disciplinary action against her; thus the certificate granted to the film is not unbiased
15. That another member of the advisory panel of CBFC has also taken a stand that the certification accorded to the movie is not completely unbiased and that the possibility of the film hurting the religious feelings and sentiments of certain sections of the society cannot be ruled out
Article 19, Article 25 and Article 226 of the Constitution of India, Section 3, Section 4, Section 5B, Section 5C, Section 5D of Cinematograph Act, 1952.
Findings of the Court
We find that it is rather the petitioner who, without any basis, is assuming that the faith and belief of persons in their religion, whether it be Hindu or any other, is so frail as to be shaken or be scandalized by the depictions in the film to which objection is taken. The said assumption in our view is totally mistaken. Religion, in the positive sense is an active instrument to allow a person to achieve full development of his person in the non-material way. Religion binds a person to his conscience. The petitioner mistakes religion to be only the rituals of which it is alleged fun is made in the subject film.
Reffered Case Laws
Recently, in Nandini Tewari Vs. Union of India, while dealing with a Public Interest Litigation seeking direction, inter alia, to the respondent to delete the word fanny from everywhere it appears/ed in the film Finding Fanny on the ground that it will hurt the feelings of citizens of India, have inter alia held that if any such restrictions were imposed, the same could affect the constitutional right of the film maker and that our society is a very mature society and that there is no need to be so sensitive about such a thing.
We recently again had occasion to deal with the challenge, to the certification granted to another Hindi language feature film Singham Returns, also on the ground of maligning Hindu religion. Rather the counsel for the petitioner therein had prefaced his argument by stating that we should not allow our minds to be coloured by the plethora of recent incidents of such Godmen being involved in all kinds of not only illegal but immoral activities.
We have in our judgment dated 19th November, 2014 in W.P.(C) No.7969/2014 titled Dharmaprachar Sabha Vs. Union of India dealing with the said challenge noted the said contention of the counsel for the petitioner therein and have observed that what is depicted in the film in fact exists in real life and held that a film that carries the message that the social evil is evil cannot be refused exhibition on the ground that it depicts the social evil and further held that only if the film extols the social evils or encourages it, the same canbe held to be not entitled to certification for public viewing.
Recently, challenge on similar grounds as urged in this petition was also made to the exhibition of the film Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram-Leela before several High Courts. The High Courts of Madhya Pradesh, Allahabad and Bombay, vide interim orders in the petitions making the said challenge had also restrained the exhibition of the said film. However the Supreme Court vide order dated 7th March, 2014 in SLP (C) Nos.7719- 7720/2014 stayed the operation of the interim orders of all the said High Courts. We may however record that the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court. A similar challenge was made to the film in this Court also in W.P.(C) No.6384/2013 titled Rashttravadi Shiv Sena Vs. Sanjay Leela Bhansali Films Pvt. Ltd. but was rejected by the Division Bench of this Court vide judgment dated 9th October, 2013. It was inter alia held that freedom of expression is of inestimable value in a democratic society based on the rule of law and that the effect of words, title and scenes in a film has to be judged from the standards of reasonable strong minded, firm and courageous man and not from that of a weak and vacillating mind. That petition, also filed in public interest, was held to be in abuse of the process of the Court and was dismissed with costs of Rs.15000/.
Prakash Jha Productions Vs. Union of India (2011) 8 SCC 372 and it was held that it is responsibility of State to maintain law and order effectively and potentially and that in the garb of such a plea screening of the film which has been cleared by CBFC for screening, cannot be prohibited. We may also add that a mischievous creation of law and order situation cannot be a ground for interfering with the certification of a film, if otherwise found to be in order. However, what constitutes religion, as understood in our Constitution (as per Ramaswamy, J. in S.R. Bommai Vs. Union of India (1994) 3 SCC 1) is what binds a man to the moral and basic principles regulating his life. It is quite distinct from freedom to perform external acts in pursuance to faith.
Court held- petitioner failed to show that film offended the religious sentiments of Hindus, Writ petition dismissed.
Resultantly, we do not find any merit in the petition and dismiss the same. We refrain from imposing any costs on the petitioner.
We, from the arguments made by the petitioner appearing in person are also of the view that the real grievance of the petitioner is not of the storyline of the film being offensive to Hindu religion but of being in the context of Hindu rather than any other religion. The choice of an artist to in the storyline refer to one and not other religion cannot be interfered with. The storyline of the film did not permit the artist to deal with all the religions. It is rather such feelings of the petitioner which are disruptive and not the sequences of the film to which objection are taken.
The court very clearly brought out the overlapping horizons in the field of right of freedom of speech and expression and right of professing religion. The court cracking down on the petitioner very rightly pointed out that the present petition is an instance of a growing tendency in the country of intolerance and which tendency has to be nipped in the bud and unless done so, is likely to spread like wild fire and which the country can ill-afford. The court rightly held that from the arguments made by the petitioner appearing in person it is of the view that the real grievance of the petitioner is not of the storyline of the film being offensive to Hindu religion but of being in the context of Hindu rather than any other religion.
Lastly after perusing the fact of the case and the contention of both the parties I came to the view that it is dependent upon the viewers of the society belonging to any religion that how they react over the contents of any film or program.