Supreme Court upholds Freedom of Expression

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition seeking a stay on a film on Arvind Kejriwal, saying “freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with” by courts.

Petitioner Nachiketa Walhekar had said that ‘An Insignificant Man’, which portrays Kejriwal’s rise from common man to Delhi chief minister, contains video clippings purportedly showing him sprinkling ink on the politician’s face at an event in 2013.

He had argued the clipping would prejudice his trial, pending with a lower court. He said the film was scheduled for nationwide release on November 17.

“The courts are to be extremely slow to pass any kind of restraint order in such a situation and should allow the respect that a creative man enjoys in writing a drama, a play, a playlet, a book on philosophy, or any kind of thought that is expressed on the celluloid or theatre, etc,” the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said.

The order comes at a time some BJP politicians and Rajput groups have been clamouring for a ban on the upcoming Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Padmavati.

“Needless to emphasise, the apprehension of the petitioner that this documentary would be used as evidence during the trial is not to be commented upon as that would be for the trial court to adjudge under the Evidence Act — and we are sure the trial court should exercise its jurisdiction in accordance with law,” it said.

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The court rejected Walhekar’s argument that the Central Board of Film Certification should never have cleared the film, which he said violated his rights under Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (right to life and liberty).

“The thrust of the matter is whether this court should entertain the writ petition and pass an order of injunction directing the CBFC to delete the clip and further not to get the movie released in theatres on 17th November, 2017,” the court said.

“It is worthy to mention that freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with. That apart, when the respondent No. 1, CBFC, has granted the certificate and only something with regard to the petitioner, which was shown in the media, is being reflected in the film, this court should restrain itself in not entertaining the writ petition or granting injunction.”

It added: “A film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind.”

According to news reports from November 2013, Walhekar, a Maharashtra resident, had claimed to be an Anna Hazare supporter and allegedly thrown ink on Kejriwal, accusing him of using Hazare’s name for electoral gain.

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2 Responses to Supreme Court upholds Freedom of Expression

  1. Every expression used [in the law] is nebulous in meaning. What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another… Information that may be grossly offensive or which causes annoyance or inconvenience are undefined terms which take into the net a very large amount of protected and innocent speech. It observed that Section 66A was liable to be used in such a way as to have a chilling effect on free speech.

  2. Once the film has been passed by the CBFC, no objection should be made over the same. Its indeed a remarkable and impactful statement by the honourable court so as to maintain the dignity and decorum of the right to freedom of speech and expression.

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