Movies

Industry asks Govt to help prevent frivolous litigation against films

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NEW DELHI: The film industry has strongly protested the manner in which the freedom of speech and expression has been ‘grossly mistreated by filing of frivolous litigations against the content of cinematograph films‘ despite their getting certified by the Central Board for Film Certification.

In a letter to Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, Film and Television Producers Guild of India President Mukesh Bhatt described this as an "extremely serious issue concerning the entire film fraternity all over the country as it is abuse of the legal system which is meant for protection of individual rights and freedom".

Bhatt said: “Any litigation initiated for challenging the content of a cinematograph film as objectionable after its certification by CBFC is superfluous and gratuitous since it disregards the authority and competence of CBFC. Such litigation is detrimental to the society at large apart from the film industry and needs to be discouraged. Moreover, any attempt to trigger the process of pre-censorship by addressing frivolous letters to the CBFC as has been done in several instances results in CBFC being over-cautious, conservative and using a magnifying class to certify films for public exhibition. The freedom of speech and expression of a filmmaker is thus jeopardized when the CBFC acts in an unstructured and conventional manner."

He added: "It is disheartening to mention that the filmmakers have also been exploited at the instance of government and public authorities who have themselves demonstrated lack of faith in the statutory body constituted for certification. Films such as Aarakshan and Mausam are witnesses to such exploitation."

Urging the Minister to find ways to discourage speculative litigation, Bhatt said the judicial process had also been "ill-treated at the hands of political parties and fake interest groups who find such frolicsome litigations an effortless and uncomplicated way to achieve self-advertisement and popular choice. Even kick starting a procedure by initiating litigation and summoning the CBFC, producers, directors, actors and distributors of cinematograph films is sufficient to give mammoth publicity to the litigant on one hand and cause undue harassment to those associated with the film on the other hand."

A film scheduled for release is "therefore perceived as a potential wage for undue gains in terms of money, fame and publicity and it has become a preferred tendency to approach courts at the last minute before scheduled release of a film to suit such mala fide purpose", Bhatt added.

However, he said the courts had been vigilant in evaluating and addressing such mischief. The Delhi High Court while deciding the validity of summons issued on the famous painter M F Hussain in relation to a contemporary painting made by him had ‘rightly observed that our scenario of painters, actors, writers, directors and theatre personalities being dragged to court on account of a mechanical exercise of issuance of summons results in growing fear and curtailment of the right of the free expression in such creative persons is hardly a desirable or an acceptable state of affairs’.

"The need of the hour is therefore to instill faith in the expert body which, in my respectful submission, comprises of qualified members competent to certify films. It is also pertinent to inspire faith in the process of certification which prescribes a reasonable classification of certification such as ‘A‘, ‘U/A‘, ‘S‘, ‘R‘, based on the content", he said

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