- The state cannot choose between protecting freedom of expression and preserving law and order. It has a duty to do both. This is the core message of the Supreme Court order staying the notifications and decisions of four States to prohibit the screening of the film Padmaavat, and directing them to ensure that law and order is maintained during its exhibition. Gujarat and Rajasthan have notified a ban, while Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have indicated they would follow suit.
- What troubled the court was that creative freedom could be so easily prohibited by the state citing a possible risk to public order.
- It needs no reiteration that summary bans on films violate the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Such a right is subject to reasonable restrictions on some grounds, including public order.
- However, the use of the threat of violence and other forms of intimidation cannot give the state an oblique reason to stifle fundamental freedoms by voicing apprehensions and invoking its powers to maintain peace.
- In the past, the Supreme Court has made it clear that it cannot give anyone a virtual veto over a certificate issued by the Central Board of Film Certification, a statutory body, by threatening violence.
- The court has reiterated that the grant of a certificate by the CBFC denudes the state of the power to prevent the exhibition of a film.
S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989):
- The interim order, which paves the way for Padmaavat to be released on January 25, is in line with a series of judicial decisions. In S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989), the Supreme Court said the state cannot plead inability to handle the problem of a hostile audience as that “would be tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to blackmail and intimidation.”