SC lifts Aarakshan ban in UP

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today declared illegal the ban imposed by Mayawati government on the release of producer-director Prakash Jha‘s film, Aarakshan.

The apex court, thus, cleared the decks for the release of the film in Uttar Pradesh.

Jha had challenged the ban imposed on the release of the film by Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab government.

The Punjab and Andhra Pradesh governments, however, lifted the ban after the director agreed to remove the objectionable portions. But the Mayawati government refused to lift the ban on the ground that it may create law and order problems.

A bench comprising Justices MK Sharma and Anil R Dave quashed the UP government order banning the release of the movie for two months.

The movie has already been released in other parts of the country on 12 August.

Jha in his petition had contended that the ban order violated his fundamental right to Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed under Article 19(i)(a) of the Constitution of India.

Earlier, the Mumbai and Patna High Courts refused to interfere with the release of the film, the latter observing that there had been no law and order problem since its release.

The Madras High Court had stayed the release of the film but changed its order after Jha convinced the court that the issue related to some extraneous payment not linked to this film.

Earlier this week when the apex court issued notice to the UP Government on the petition, the bench also asked the Centre to give its reaction in view of the contentions by Jha that the state governments cannot override the permission granted by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to exhibit a movie.

The petition contended the decision by the governments of UP, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh was due to political reasons and it violates the fundamental right to speech and expression.

In the petition, Jha said the examining committee of Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), which cleared the film for exhibition, comprised members drawn from the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and other backward castes and the ban by the three states is "biased and arbitrary".

Seeking a stay on ban orders, Jha had cited various apex court judgments holding that "open criticism of the government policies and operations is not a ground for imposing restriction on expression views even in the form of films."

He said he has spent Rs 650 million towards production, publicity and marketing of the film and third party rights for distribution and exploitation of the film have also been created.

Aarakshan, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Prateik Babbar and Hema Malini (in a guest role), deals with the sensitive issue of commercialisation of education in the light of caste-based reservations in the education system.

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