lawzmag.comThe supreme court while dismissing the writ petition filed by Manohar Lal Sharma in MANOHAR LAL SHARMA VERSUS SANJAY LEELA BHANSALI & ORS. States that When the matter is pending for grant of certification, if responsible people in power or public offices comment on the issue of certification pending consideration before the statutory authority, that is a violation of the rule of law. All concerned shall be guided by the basic premise of the rule of law and ought not to venture into violating the same.

The instant writ petition has been preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution of India giving it the nomenclature of public interest litigation basically with twin prayers that a film titled “Padmavati” should not be exhibited in other countries without obtaining the requisite certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) under the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (for brevity, ‘the Act’) and the Rules and guidelines framed thereunder and further to issue a writ of mandamus to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),  to register an FIR against the Respondent and their team members for offence punishable under Section 7 of the Act read with Sections 153A, 295, 295A, 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 4 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and to investigate and prosecute them in accordance with law.

Another aspect needs to be highlighted. A story told on celluloid or a play enacted on a stage or a novel articulated in a broad and large canvas or epic spoken with eloquence or a poem sung with passion or recited with rhythm has many a layer of freedom of expression of thought that requires innovation, skill, craftsmanship and, above all, individual originality founded on the gift of imagination or reality transformed into imagination or vice versa. The platform can be different and that is why, the creative instinct is respected and has the inherent protective right from within which is called artistic licence. In this regard, we may profitably reproduce a passage from Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar v. State of Maharashtra and others:-

“As far as the words “poetic licence”, are concerned, it can never remotely mean a licence as used or understood in the language of law. There is no authority who gives a licence to a poet. These are words from the realm of literature.

The poet assumes his own freedom which is allowed to him by the fundamental concept of poetry. He is free to depart from reality; fly away from grammar; walk in glory by not following systematic metres; coin words at his own will; use archaic words to convey thoughts or attribute meanings; hide ideas beyond myths which can be absolutely unrealistic; totally pave a path where neither rhyme nor rhythm prevail; can put serious ideas in satires, ifferisms, notorious repartees; take aid of analogies, metaphors, similes in his own style, compare like “life with sandwiches that is consumed everyday” or “life is like peeling of an onion”, or “society is like a stew”; define ideas that can balloon into the sky never to come down; cause violence to logic at his own fancy; escape to the sphere of figurative truism; get engrossed in the “universal eye for resemblance”, and one can do nothing except writing a critical appreciation in his own manner and according to his understanding. When a poet says “I saw eternity yesterday night”, no reader would understand the term “eternity” in its prosaic sense. The Hamletian question has many a layer; each is free to confer a meaning; be it traditional or modern or individualistic. No one can stop a dramatist or a poet or a writer to write freely expressing his thoughts, and similarly none can stop the critics to give their comments whatever its worth. One may concentrate on Classical facets and one may think at a metaphysical level or concentrate on Romanticism as is understood in the poems of Keats, Byron or Shelley or one may dwell on Nature and write poems like William Wordsworth whose poems, say some, are didactic. One may also venture to compose like Alexander Pope or Dryden or get into individual modernism like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot or Pablo Neruda. That is fundamentally what is meant by poetic licence.”

We may categorically state that the artistic licence should be put on a high pedestal but the same has to be judged objectively on case to case basis.

The supreme court dismissed the writ petition on ground that It is settled in law that no right is absolute but the fetters for enjoying the rights should be absolutely reasonable more so when it relates to the right to freedom of speech and expression and right to liberty. The Court has to see what kinds of fetters are being imposed and the impact of the same.


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