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Ensure unhindered Bhobishyoter Bhoot screening: Supreme Court

Political satire was pulled out of Calcutta cinemas a day after it was released

By Our Legal Correspondent and Our Bureau in New Delhi
  • Published 16.03.19, 5:15 AM
  • Updated 16.03.19, 5:15 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
A poster of Bhobishyoter Bhoot (Bhobishyoter Bhoot)

The Supreme Court on Friday directed Bengal’s chief secretary, home secretary and director-general of police to ensure unhindered screening of Bhobishyoter Bhoot, a political satire that was pulled out of city cinemas a day after it was released on February 15.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta, which passed the order, said once the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) had cleared a film, no authority could restrict its screening.

Any attempt at stalling the screening would violate the fundamental right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

“Once a movie is certified by (the) CBFC, it is not open to any authority to issue formal or informal directions preventing the producer from having the film screened as it directly infringes the rights under Article 19,” the bench said.

The bench then proceeded to dictate the order: “We strictly direct chief secretary, West Bengal, as well as the principal secretary, home, to ensure that no obstruction or restraint of any kind whatsoever is imposed on the viewing of the film or the film being screened in theatres.

“We also direct the chief secretary, principal secretary, home, and DGP to ensure proper arrangements of security are made to facilitate screening of the film and to ensure viewers and audience are not in danger and there is no danger to the property of the theatre where the film is screened.”

The court issued notices to the state of Bengal, its principal secretary, home, and the commissioner of Calcutta police and posted the matter for further hearing on March 25.

When the film, which released to full or near-full house, was pulled out, several multiplexes had alleged that the police had ordered the step citing “popular sentiment” and potential “law-and-order trouble”.

The director of Bhobishyoter Bhoot, Anik Dutta, had said the police had written to one of the producers before the film’s release that it needed a clearance from them because certain portions could trigger trouble.

Police officers have not commented on the allegations.

The film is a social and political satire about ghosts who wish to make themselves relevant in the future by rescuing the marginalised and the obsolete.

The petition filed by the producers through advocate Indira Unninayar states the Bengal government had misused the police to stall the screening of the film despite a certification by the CBFC.

“…despite the certificate for public exhibition duly issued by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which is the competent authority for the entire country, R1, through R2 and R3, (Bengal government and its authorities) in gross violation of Supreme Court rulings is obstructing the film from being exhibited in the Cinema Halls of Kolkata in a highly back-handed and arbitrary manner,” the petition states.

“The State of West Bengal is misusing police power and acting as a ‘super-censor’ sitting atop the CBFC and is violating the Petitioners’ fundamental rights… through Kolkata Police…”

Since the film is due for an all-India release, the producers also want a direction to all authorities in the country to ensure unhindered screening.

The producers have submitted that their earlier film, Meghnadbodh Rohoshyo, was selected in the Indian Panorama of the 48th International Film Festival of India in 2017. Bhobishyoter Bhoot has been short-listed for ARFF International-Barcelona jury award.

High court

A petition moved by two “film lovers” seeking Calcutta High Court’s intervention in the “illegal act of the police” in regard to Bhobishyoter Bhoot came up for hearing before Justice Debangshu Basak on Friday. The judge adjourned the hearing till March 19 because the Supreme Court was hearing a similar petition.

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