Giving a green signal to Amitabh Bachchan starrer Aarakshan in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court today lifted the ban imposed by the state, saying that public discussion and conflict are necessary in a vibrant democracy like India.
A bench of Justice Mukundakam Sharma and Justice AR Dave lifted the two months ban on the film by the state government. The courts stated that the restrictions on Aarakshan's release would go against the democratic value of free speech and expression in India. Though UP was adamant to fight the court's decision, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, which had also banned the screening of the film, told the court that they have decided to permit the release of Aarakshan.
"In a democracy, particularly in a vibrant democracy like ours, public discussion is necessary for its smooth running. In fact, such discussions bring awareness on social issues for effective working of the democracy. In fact, when there is such public discussion and dissent there would be a informed public opinion which is necessary for our society," " said the bench, while writing the order.
The apex court passed the order, acting on the writ petition filed by film maker Prakash Jha challenging the decision of UP, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, to suspend the screening of the film. The court dismissed the argument of UP counsel UU Lalit that the film would lead to breach of law and order in the state. Lalit also argued that the state had the power to suspend the screening in the interest of peace in the state even if the film has been passed by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The bench stated that Aarakshan has already been screened by all other states in India, including those which are considered to be sensitive to these feelings. "It is for the state to maintain law and order. It shall maintain law and order effectively and in a meaningful manner," the bench observed agreeing to senior counsel Harish Salve for the producer, that the state can suspend the screening of a film only in extraordinary cases.
The apex court also cleared that the high level committee constituted by the State government, which viewed Aarakshan and directed deletion of a few scenes, had exercised a power which was not vested with it. They said that the censorship powers was vested with the CBSE alone.