Insidious for democracy if police stop film screening

Insidious for democracy if police stop film screening

The Supreme Court. DH file photo

The Supreme Court on Monday said it was “very, very insidious in a democracy” if the police authorities directly send a letter to the cinema theatre owners to stop screening of a film.

“It cannot be accepted that a film which is critical of political class is to hurt public sentiments. Under what authority and law, a police officer can write to theatre owners to pull down a particular film,” a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta asked.

The court said that it would lay down guidelines in this regard as it reserved its judgement on a writ petition filed by Indibily Creative Pvt Ltd, challenging the validity of police officers' letter to stop screening of a Bangla 'satire' film Bhobishyoter Bhoot.

“Yes, the police authorities can pass order under Section 6 of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1954 or Section 13 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, if there is any apprehension of law and order. But in absence of such an order which can be challenged in a court of law, how can the police directly ask theatre owners to stop screening of the movie,” the bench asked.

The court had earlier taken exception to the letter seeking private screening of the movie before the police officers.

On Monday, a West Bengal counsel submitted following the apex court's order, a letter sent by the joint commissioner of police to the producer of the film on February 11, 2019 was withdrawn.

The court had then taken exception to the letter which said that the “film may create political law and order issues”.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the film producer, said that a “worrying” trend has been seen where a film producer was directly told by the police authorities to stop screening a movie without resorting to legal provisions.

“The state of West Bengal is duty bound, once the film has been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification to take necessary measures to protect the fundamental right to free speech and expression of the producer and the director,” the court had said.