“Freedom of Speech and Expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with.” Explain in the context of recent controversies regarding release of cinematographic films in India.

“Freedom of Speech and Expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with.” Explain in the context of recent controversies regarding release of cinematographic films in India.

Approach:

  • Introduce with the right to freedom of speech and expression
  • Point out how the artistic expression in the form of in form of cinematographic films forms part of the freedom of speech and expression.
  • Point out the reasonable restrictions that can be put upon the public exhibition of such cinematographic films, and mention their misuse.
  • Conclude appropriately.
Model Answer :

Freedom of speech and expression is an integral feature of a modern democracy as it helps in enabling free discussions on various issues. The right of free speech is internationally recognised and the Indian Constitution under the article 19(1)(a) has guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right.

The cinematographic films are a form of artistic expression and an artist is free to express in a manner not prohibited by law. The films are a major tool of mass communication and can help in provoking the conscious or subconscious thoughts of a viewer. It helps in the formation of public opinion on vital social, political and economic issues, e.g. a recent movie “Toilet: ek prem katha” was hailed for promoting sanitation and cleanliness. The SC has also recognised that artistic expression in form of films are covered by the Article 19 of the constitution.

However, the freedom of expression in the form of cinematographic films is not absolute, they can be subject to following restrictions:

  • Under the Article 19(2), a reasonable restriction can be put upon the freedom of speech and expression, covering area such as security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, contempt of court, defamation, sovereignty &integrity of India, etc.
  • The CBFC is empowered to refuse certification for public exhibition of a film under the grounds mentioned under the Cinematograph Act, 1952 .
  • State can ban or put restriction on the public exhibition of a film if it creates a situation of law and order disruption.

These reasonable restrictions have been twisted for banning films on many occasions to suit the vested interests. A recent uproar over an unreleased film Padmavati and statements of various public functionaries to ban it in case of its release, is triggering concerns of pre-censorship threatening the freedom of speech and expression.

In the case of Prakash Jha Productions vs. Union of India the Supreme Court said that state governments cannot ban a film merely on the apprehension that it could cause a law and order problem; and also recently asked the other courts to exercise extreme restraint in granting stays on creative arts like films. The freedom of speech and expression is an essence of the constitution & democracy and rather than curbing it, a democratic state should cherish it.

Subjects : Polity

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