Prakash Jha seeks SC relief for 'Aarakshan'

Punjab may allow conditional screening of the film

Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have banned the film dealing with the issue of reservation in education over apprehensions of igniting public passion and disturbing peace and tranquility.

Appearing on behalf of Jha before a three-judge bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir, senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohtagi sought immediate intervention of the court by mentioning the issue was an urgent matter with the film being released on Friday. The court asked them to file the petition and assured that it would take it up if the same was listed in the afternoon. But the petition was listed for August 16.

In his petition, Jha tried to allay the apprehension of the film being anti-Dalit. He contended that any ban on the film for a certain period was violation of his fundamental right to freedom of speech as it had been duly passed by the censor board’s special committee comprising its chairperson Leela Samson and experts like retired chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal and Dalit activist Rajni Tilak.

“Factually, the film is not anti-reservation or anti-Dalit. The film 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 the commercialisation of education system in the present society,” the petition added. The Centre too defended the board’s decision and ruled out any intervention in the matter.

The Bombay High Court had in an order on August 9 allowed exhibition of the film without any cuts after concluding that it did not hurt any sentiments. In Punjab, the committee set up to decide on the ban allowed for the film’s release if  Jha agreed to amend or delete certain “objectionable” dialogues. But the movie was screened in multiplexes across the state capital and Union Territory of Chandigarh on Friday. Bollywood slammed the ban, calling it an attack on creative freedom.

“Should we filmmakers from now on start making cartoon films,” tweeted filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar. Anupam Kher said “Aarakshan” is a victim of “today’s dirty politics”. Karan Johar, who had faced a similar situation for his film “My Name Is Khan” tweeted, “Cinema is a medium of expression... democracy allows the freedom of expression... is this only in theory??? And who stands accountable?? SAD.”

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