HC quashes censor board order on 'Battle for Banaras' film

HC quashes censor board order on 'Battle for Banaras' film

The Delhi High Court has set aside the censor board's decision of refusing public viewing of a documentary  "Battle for Banaras" chronicling the high-voltage 2014 campaign for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat involving Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Congress candidate Ajay Rai, saying it does not have hate speeches.

Modi won the elections comfortably.

The court said that while viewing "Battle for Banaras", one does not get an impression that the documentary film tries to divide people on caste or communal lines.

"After having viewed the film, I am of the view that the broad general finding rendered by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as well as Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) that the film is full of hate speech and inflammatory speeches is not sustainable.

"The film merely reproduces the speeches made by various leaders and party candidates at the time of the general elections. It is not the case of the board or the FCAT that what the petitioner has sought to project is an incorrect depiction or portrayal of what has transpired," Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said.

The court further said it was not the case of the board that what the petitioner, the documentary's producers, projected is not extract of the speeches of the candidates.

It said that the petitioner has tried to project through the film the views and extracts of speeches of various candidates, workers or leaders of different parties.

It added that though some words used or some portion of the film may be in conflict with the guidelines framed by the central government in terms of the Cinematograph Act, neither the board nor the FCAT has clearly spelt as to which part or dialogue of the film would violate the guidelines.

The court sent the matter back to the FCAT to re-examine the film and pass a speaking order within four weeks.

It asked FCAT to pin point the scenes or dialogues which may be in conflict with the guidelines for film certification framed under the Act.

The court quashed the 2015 and 2016 orders of the board and the FCAT saying they are not sustainable.

It said that a viewing of the film, which is unpartisan, and a reading of its script clearly showed that there is no language or scene that is either defamatory, derogatory, abusive or likely to offend or affect public order, decency or morality or the sovereignty or integrity of India.

The petition had sought quashing of the April 4 order of the FCAT and the October 16, 2015 decision of the CBFC refusing to certify the documentary "Battle for Banaras", saying no reasons were given for rejecting their plea for certification.

The petition alleged that the censor board and FCAT orders contained no mention of what parts of the film were objectionable and violated the guidelines of film certification issued under the Cinematograph Act.  

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