Central Board of Film Certification tribunal’s observation that
“riots are now history”
Excerpts from the order
The petitioner is a well-known activist and filmmaker. He is producer of documentary films and writes scripts for films. In 2003, the petitioner produced a documentary film in one reel (running time 18 minutes) called Aakrosh on communal riots that took place in Gujarat in the year 2002. The documentary makes a sincere attempt to give expression to the sufferings and woes of the survivors of the holocaust. This is done in a series of interviews. The documentary has deliberately avoided images of gruesome violence and dead bodies. It has limited itself to the expression of anguish by the victims who are trying to come to terms with the meaninglessness of it all.
Before the hearing commenced the film was screened for the court. The lawyers of both sides and the petitioner also remained present. As stated earlier, the film is a collection of interviews of victims of riots in Gujarat and the film has not depicted any violence or gory pictures and details. The filmmaker has attempted to portray the facts honestly while avoiding sensationalism, strong adjectives and provocative display. If the narratives are considered in the content of devastating destruction caused by riots they will generate sympathy in the minds of the viewers for the riot affected persons. We are unable to agree with the view of the tribunal that communal exhibition of the film would lead to further communal violence. The film creates more compassion than hatred and would shame and shock ordinary people and hopefully spur many of them to think and act positively.
Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India observed: “Democracy is based essentially on free debate and open discussion, for that is the only corrective of government action in a democratice setup. If democracy means government of the people by the people it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratice process and in order to enable him to intelligently exercise his right of making a chocice, free and general discussion of public matters is absolutely essential”.
Judgment of S Rangarajan Vs P Jagjivan Ram case concluded that: “Freedom of expression which is legitimate and constitutionally protected cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group of people. The fundamental freedom under Article 19 (1) (a) can be reasonably restricted only fo rhte purposes mentioned in Arficle 19 (2) and the restrictions must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of concveneience or expediency. Open criticism of government policicies and operation is not a ground for restricting expression. We must practice tolerance to the views of others. Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person himself”.
Judgment of Sakal Papers (P) Ltd vs Union of India, AIR 1962 said: “… The courts must be ever vigilant in guarding perhaps the most precious of all the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. The reason for this is obvious. The freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount importance under a democratic Constitution which envisages changes in the composition of legislatures and governments must be preserved”.
We have viewed the film from point of view of an average man and we feel that the tribunal was not right in observing that the movie would incite people and would lead to further violence. It is not correct to say that average people will not learn their mistakes of the past and perhaps will not commit same mistake again. The documentary creates an impression of the message of peace and co-existence and compassion for the people who suffered in the riots. Therefore in our opinion, the decision of the tribunal as well as the decisions of the Examining committee and Revising Committee cannot be sustained.”
Respondents are directed to grant appropriate certificate for the exhibition of the film “Aakrosh” within 12 weeks from today.