Pay Rs 20 lakh to producer, Supreme Court tells Mamata government

The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the West Bengal government for imposing an unofficial ban on the movie, Bhobhishyoter Bhoot, and directed it to pay Rs 20 lakh to the film’s producer.

A bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud termed the state government’s action as “growing intolerance” over artistic freedom. “Don’t watch a film, don’t turn the pages of the book, don’t hear what’s not music to the ears…but you can’t curb freedom of the others,” held the bench. It said the film’s producer needed to be compensated by the state.

The court also observed that the contemporary events showed how organised groups now pose a threat to freedom of speech and expression. The court order came on a petition filed by Indibily Creative Private Limited, the movie producer. In its submission, the petitioner said the state had indirectly curbed the film’s exhibition. The local police had built pressure on the producer and coerced them to withdraw the film, the court was told.

The film ran into controversy because of its satirical content lampooning political parties.

Admonishing the police for playing an obstructionist’s role, the court said those who disagree have an option to not watch the film. Police cannot act as self-appointed guardians of public morality, said the court.

“If the right of the playwright, artist, musician or actor were to be subjected to popular notions of what is or is not acceptable, the right itself and its guarantee under the Constitution would be rendered illusory,” said the court, adding the purpose of the art is to question and provoke.