Film showing circumstances of underprivileged women not impermissible: SC

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The Supreme Court observed that a film that carries a message and depicts social circumstances of a group of underprivileged women is not impermissible.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheshwari said: “A book or a film that illustrates the consequences of a social evil must necessarily show that social evil, as observed by a three judge bench of this court… The guidelines must be interpreted in that light. A film that carries a message and depicts social circumstances of a group of underprivileged women is not impermissible.”

It made these observations while dismissing a plea seeking an injunction against Bhansali Productions from releasing Alia Bhatt-starrer “Gangubai Kathiawadi”, based on the book “Mafia Queens of Mumbai”.

The plea was filed by Gangubai’s adopted son, Babuji Rawji Shah.

The bench, in an order uploaded on Friday, noted the fact that the film has been certified by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which comprises a body of experts’ prima facie shows compliance with the requirements of the guidelines.

The petitioner claimed that the film as well as the book, on which it is based, are defamatory in nature. The bench noted that there are exceptions to defamation and it is not defamation to impute anything which is true, concerning any persons or if the imputation has been made or published for the public good.

“Whether or not it is for the public good is a question of fact, that has to be determined by the court,” said the bench.

“Mere hurting of sensibility is not defamation, if the person said to be defamed is not lowered in character or credit in the eyes of others.”

The top court made it clear that a film which is defamatory or indecent or breaches copyright cannot be allowed to be exhibited only because a certificate has been issued.

A battery of senior advocates C. Aryama Sundaram, Mukul Rohatgi, and Siddharth Dave, appearing on behalf of the respondents including the filmmakers, emphatically argued that they have incurred phenomenal expenses in producing the film “Gangubai Kathiawadi”, which is scheduled to be released on February 25.

The counsel contended that photocopy of the petitioner’s ration card unsupported by any other material does not even prima facie establish that he is the adopted son of Gangubai, who had died way back in 1980.

The bench said there are no materials disclosed or even pleadings to show, even prima facie, that the petitioner was a family member or a near relative of Gangubai.

“The film certificate issued by the CBFC prima facie shows that the film is not defamatory. Prima facie, it appears that the movie is an artistic expression within the parameters of law,” said the bench, refusing petitioner’s plea against the release of the film.

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