In this case, the petitioners were the producers of the Bengali film “Bhobishyoter Bhoot. This film was set to be released on 15th February 2019 in Kolkata and some parts of West Bengal. The certificate for public display of this movie was issued on 19th November 2018. However, a few days before the release of the film, the petitioner no. 2 got a phone call from Kolkata police on 11th February 2019 and then received a letter demanding exclusive screening of the movie for senior officials. The letter also claimed that the police obtained intelligence information that the film might cause political law and order issues. Petitioner No. 2 replied via letter on 12th February 2019 that the film had already been duly certified and it was a recognised rule that after the authorisation of Central board of film certification no authority could hinder the display of the film. The movie was released on 15th February 2019, but on 16th February several exhibitors suddenly removed the film from the theatres and also refunded the tickets. It was alleged that this was done due to orders from higher officials. The petitioners then filed a write petition before the Supreme Court claiming that their rights have been violated. The petitioners also argued that the state had attempted to ban the film by various means without the authority of law.
QUESTION OF LAW-
Whether the state had violated the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression of the petitioners and to conduct a lawful trade of their choice under Article 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g) and Article 21 of the Indian constitution by prohibiting the film by unconventional means and without the authority of law?
At first, the court emphasised the importance of freedom of speech and expression in a democratic country by pointing out to the philosophical and literary writing, citing Voltaire, and Camus among many others. It is also clarified how freedom of speech and expression is not dependant on the acceptance of the people who are not able to take any criticism. The court further stated that the constitution is intended to preserve the innovative speech of those who are engaged in human activities in the field of fine arts and culture. This is often combined with the right of the whole society to learn, to obtain information and to be educated.
The right to information or the right to know is an essential portion of the right to life under article 21 of the Indian constitution. So the authorities which are hindering the display of the movie have violated both the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right of the public to be aware.
The court thus declared that the state intervened with the freedom of speech and expression, both by commission and omission and further held that there had been an infringement of the rights of the petitioner under Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution of India. The court also ordered the respondent to pay compensation which is equivalent to Rs.20 lakhs, for violating fundamental rights in addition to Rs.1 lakh as legal expenses.
Submitted By: Pritha Sarkar