New Delhi, Jan 30: It is ironical that Tamil Nadu chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who herself hails from the film fraternity should use the might of the government machinery to stop screening of Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam.
The high court judge Justice K Venkataramanwas right when he said "considering the totality of circumstances, I am of the view that the order made under Section 144 of CrPC is liable to be kept in abeyance for the present," said the judge in his interim order after a day-long hearing.
The government of Jayalalithaa had clamed Section 144 in the state to prevent the screening of the film. The court said it was surprising to note that all the District Magistrates/District Collectors of 31 districts, had taken a common decision and passed an order under Section 144 of CrPC "which appears to be strange." ".....In my considered view, no independent reason have been given by District Collectors and solely relied on the statement made by Muslim organisations," the judge said.
Review should be under Cinematograph Act, says court
Observing that the orders under Section 144 CrPC were passed in view of the representation given by several Muslim organisations, he said their remedy was to approach authority under Cinematograph Act, 1952 to seek redress. "... No doubt, for making a law and order problem, the Authority competent is entitled to make an order under Section 144 of CrPC but, that does not mean that section of society can curtail the fundamental rights of a citizen, but it has to protect the person whose fundamental rights are threatened to be violated," the court said.
Why censorship by government is dangerous?
According the American Civil Liberties Union "Censorship is the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Once you allow the government to censor someone else, you cede to it the power to censor you, or something you like."
The crucial aspect is that a government should not be allowed to impose censorship.
Celebrities as soft targets
This month has been cruel to the celebs with both Shahrukh Khan and Kamal Haasan coming under attack for their creative work.
"I believe people often use celebrities to advance their propagandas... celebrities have become a soft target nowadays," Priyanka told reporters in Mumbai.
On the other hand filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt and Rituparno Ghosh strongly supported embattled Kamal Haasan and said the hounding he is facing can only be termed as 'state terrorism'.
"I quite understand the filmmmaker's pain and constraints extraneously imposed - artificial constraints - that is restricting his work to be viewed in its entirety," Ghosh said.
"I think any creative person is entitled to his or her own opinion and certainly what has been happening has not been fair. It in a secular country and the censor board constituted of a few people can't take a decision on the basis of the entire country," he said.
Ghosh termed as "appeasement policy" the ban imposed on Vishwaroopam by the Tamil Nadu government following protests from some fringe groups. "It's not a prerequisite for an artiste to be godless but I think if Kamal chooses it, he should be allowed to," he said responding to Haasan's comment that he's an artist and is therefore godless.
Even Leela Samson, the head of the national censor board, said she was shocked and intended to take it up formally. "This is hounding of an artist. A man who is an icon of Tamil Nadu. We are sensitive to issues. The group objecting to Vishwaroopam have the freedom not to view it. We will object to the language used by the lawyer representing the Tamil Nadu govt against the censor board," she added.
Writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar questioned India's democratic processed and expressed sadness at the ban on the film.
"The moment you open your mouth, the moment you express something, you are wrong. What is democracy all about? Same happened with Ashis Nandy. Why do we accept their blackmail? It has become a tradition to protest films. One can understand Kamal Hassan's hurt and suppression," Akhtar said.