Supreme Court Quashes Ban on Film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’

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The Supreme Court in a land­mark de­ci­sion ti­tled

Harinder Singh Sikka v Union of In­dia & Ors in Writ Pe­ti­tion(s) (Civil) No.(s) 313/2018 dated 10 April, 2018 has bat­ted strongly in de­fence of the right to free speech and ex­pres­sion, which is price­less and this is true es­pe­cially of artists and ac­tors. Thus, the Apex Court by its land­mark or­der cleared the way for un­hin­dered dis­tri­bu­tion and screen­ing of the film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ that faced a fresh chal­lenge from the Shi­ro­mani Gu­rud­wara

Par­band­hak Com­mit­tee (SGPC). We thus see that fi­nally the Apex Court has put an end to all the spec­u­la­tions to the re­lease of the film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ which has been in limbo and wait­ing ap­proval since April 2015.

All decks have now been cleared for the re­lease of the film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, which is based on the life and work of Guru Nanak. The film, which had been ear­lier ap­proved and later banned by the SGPC and the Akal Takht was cleared for re­lease by the Apex Court on April 10. The Supreme Court Bench com­pris­ing of Chief Jus­tice of In­dia Di­pak Misra and Jus­tices DY Chan­drachud and AM Khan­wilkar while frown­ing at the SGPC which had ear­lier “cleared” the film and slam­ming the vig­i­lante groups at­tempt­ing to as­sume the role of the Cen­tral Board of Film Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (CBFC) in de­cid­ing whether movies could be screened in public minced ab­so­lutely no words in stat­ing ex­plic­itly that the CBFC’s nod was “fi­nal” and that “the free­dom of ex­pres­sion of an artiste can’t be cur­tailed by a group of pri­vate peo­ple”.

It may be re­called that the film ac­cord­ing to re­ports had been cleared ini­tially by both the SGPC and the Akal Takht who gave their nod to it. Ap­pear­ing for the film’s pro­ducer Lt Cdr HS Sikka (retd) se­nior ad­vo­cate Rupin­der Singh Suri had said that the film­mak­ers had taken the SGPC into con­fi­dence, screened it be­fore a spe­cial com­mit­tee and car­ried out sug­gested mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Af­ter changes in the film, which in 2015 had won three awards at the 63rd Na­tional Film Awards, in­clud­ing the Nar­gis Dutt award for best fea­ture film on na­tional in­te­gra­tion, the SGPC had asked all gu­rud­waras to help pro­mote the movie.

Since mod­i­fi­ca­tions were car­ried out, the pro­ducer moved the CBFC again for fresh clear­ance and got a ‘U’ cer­tifi­cate on March 28. On this very day, the SGPC is­sued a press re­lease say­ing the film had the Sikh re­li­gious body’s clear­ance. But two days later, the

SGPC changed its stance which stoked sen­ti­ments against the film.

Need­less to say, the SGPC and other rad­i­cal groups started threat­en­ing to use vi­o­lent meth­ods to stall the film’s re­lease. The CJI-led Bench of Apex

Court ex­pressed its strong dis­ap­proval at the at­tempts by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als and groups to stop re­lease of film. It said clearly and cat­e­gor­i­cally that, “We do not see how any­body, group, as­so­ci­a­tion or in­di­vid­ual can cre­ate any kind of dis­tur­bance in ex­hi­bi­tion of the film.” Very rightly said!

It may be also re­called here that the Apex Court had taken a sim­i­lar view just re­cently when some rad­i­cal Ra­jput groups like Karni Sena had ob­jected to the re­lease of film ‘Pad­ma­vat’. The Apex Court had then clearly stated that, “Once the CBFC cer­ti­fied a film for re­lease; its screen­ing should not be pre­vented.” There can be no deny­ing or dis­put­ing it.

It is a mat­ter of ut­most con­cerns that none other than the CJI Di­pak Misra him­self had ex­pressed his con­cern that the ten­dency to not re­spect the law of the land was be­com­ing fre­quent. He said quite con­vinc­ingly and clearly that, “If such ac­tiv­i­ties are en­cour­aged, the same has the po­ten­tial­ity to bring in an­ar­chy and crip­ple the right of free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion.” Who can deny or dis­pute this in­dis­putable truth?

Protest against

ʻNanak Shah Fakirʼ film.

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