Subject Matter

Relevant Section

Key Issues

Citation Details

Summary Judgment

Certification of films.

Section 5A: The applicant for the certificate to whom the rights in the film have passed shall not be liable for punishment under any law relating to obscenity in respect of any matter contained in the film for which certificate has been granted.

Whether certificate issued would amount to justification for public exhibition?

Raj Kapoor vs. Laxman (14.12.1979 - SC): MANU/SC/0211/1979

Facts: The complainant alleged that the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram was by its fascinating title misleadingly foul and beguiled the guideless into degeneracy and that obscenity, indecency and vice were writ large on the picture, constituting an offence. The Magistrate after examining some witnesses took cognizance of the offence and issued notice to the appellant-producer of the film. Thereupon the appellant moved the High Court on the score that the criminal proceeding was an abuse of the judicial process and that no prosecution could be legally sustained as the film had been duly certified for public show by the Central Board of Film Censors. The High Court however dismissed the petition and so appeal present.
Held: The Supreme Court held that a certificate issued under Section 5A of the Cinematograph Act amounts to a justification in law for public exhibition of a film and the initiation of criminal processes for obscenity is not sustainable if the film has been passed by the censor board. However, the court also maintained that the bar is not absolute, and the filmmaker has to participate in the legal proceedings and claim the safeguard.

Section 5B: A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the public interests.

Revisional powers of the Central Government.

Section 5E: The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette suspend a certificate granted to the film if it was being exhibited in a form other than the one in which it was certified.

Whether the suit filed against the Defendant for breach of contract, invasion to right of privacy, tort of defamation and malicious falsehood is justified?

Manisha Koirala-II vs. Shashilal Nair and Ors. (17.10.2002 - BOMHC): MANU/MH/1184/2002

Facts: A film, titled ‘Ek Chhoti Si Love Story’ was the subject matter of dispute. The story of the film was about an adolescent boy who was obsessed with a girl who was 26 years old and shared an intimate relationship with a man Plaintiff, an actress, played a central character in the film. The Defendant was the Director of the film. The film had been cleared by the Censor Board with ‘A’ certificate. Plaintiff had acted throughout the movie except for the four scenes, which were enacted by a double and to which the Plaintiff has objected as being vulgar and obscene. Thereafter a letter was addressed by Defendant to the Plaintiff in regards to the film, informing, that portions of the film has been shot by a duplicate, which involves a certain level of physical exposure, stating that If she has any objection to any particular section, they stand to replace it with alternate shots. Therefore Plaintiff filed this suit against the Defendant for breach of contract, invasion to right of privacy, tort of defamation and malicious falsehood.
Held: Firstly, it is apparent that there was a story board and the Plaintiff was aware that the film was sensitive and would require certain degree of exposure. There is no material before the court to establish as a term of contract and the letter does not amount to a binding contract and only serves as intimation that the scenes shot with the double, if objected to would be replaced by alternate shots, which has been done with Defendant and on other hand the fact that the Plaintiff has agreed to act in the film after being aware of the theme, the same would not amount to a case of defamation. In the same what is sought to be contended is that the scenes involving the film artist would result in an action of malicious injurious falsehood by associating the Plaintiff with the scenes which she had not enacted. It is difficult for this court to appreciate on the facts of this case that the Defendant is liable for malicious falsehood. However, the scenes of which objection is taken do not involve the Plaintiff’s presence, therefore the court came to the conclusion that the tort of defamation is not proved, it will be difficult to hold that there is an invasion of the Plaintiff’s right to privacy.

Section 6: No such order shall be made prejudicially affecting any person applying for a certificate or to whom a certificate has been granted, as the case may be, except after giving him an opportunity for representing his views in the matter and nothing shall require the Central Government to disclose any fact which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.

Forfeiture of film by direction of Government order.

Section 7: If any person is convicted of an offence punishable under this section committed by him in respect of any film, the convicting court may further direct that the film shall be forfeited to the Government.

Whether Petitioner was entitled to seek relief's?

Manohar Lal Sharma vs. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ors. (28.11.2017 - SC): MANU/SC/1508/2017

Facts: Present petition filed seeking reliefs that film should not be exhibited in other countries without obtaining the requisite certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification under Act and the Rules and guidelines framed thereunder and further to issue a writ to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register an FIR against First and Second Respondent and their team members and to investigate and prosecute them in accordance with law.
Held: First Respondent had no intention to exhibit the film in question in certain countries pending consideration of the application by the CBFC under the Act. Concern expressed by Counsel for the Respondents was appreciated because the scrutiny of the film was still pending for consideration before the CBFC. Further prayer was for issuance of direction to CBI to register an FIR against Respondents and their team members. As far as other offences were concerned, it was unfathomable how any offence was made out. There was no basis to direct registration of an FIR and the prayer was absolutely misconceived and so that was most unfortunate situation showing how public interest litigation could be abused and the petition was not to be filed to abuse others. Thus pleadings were absolutely scurrilous, vexatious and untenable in law.

Restrictions on powers of licensing authority.

Section 12: The Central Government may issue directions to licensees for the purpose of regulating the exhibition of any film, so that scientific films, films intended for educational purposes, secure an adequate opportunity of being exhibited, and where any such directions have been issued those directions shall be deemed to be additional conditions and restrictions subject to which the licence has been granted.

Whether the mandatory provisions requiring the Licensee to display particular kinds of Govt. approved short films which they are exhibiting, violates the constitutional rights?

Union of India (UOI) and Ors. vs. The Motion Picture Association and Ors. (15.07.1999 - SC): MANU/SC/0404/1999

Facts: In this case, several laws mandating the cinema owners to show the government approved documentary films came under consideration in the Supreme Court of India through appeals filed by the Motion Pictures association ltd and others. The provisions mandated the licensee of the cinema that scientific films, films intended for educational purposes, dealing with news and current events, documentaries or indigenous films have to be exhibited by the licensee along with the other films, which the licensee is exhibiting. The length and duration of such films are regulated by different provisions under the parent state acts. The short films of this category are produced by the Film Division of the Government of India only. The exhibitors were required to enter into an agreement with the film division of India for the supply of such films to be exhibited and pay in return for such supply, a rental amounting to 1% of their net weekly collection. These impugned provisions have been in force for several decades until challenged by the Motion pictures association as unconstitutional.
Held: The case does not hinder the freedom of speech and expression because it is not forcing the Respondents to spread any propaganda or biased information. The Respondents also contended that the payment of rental and the procedure of collecting the films from the Film Division of India is an onerous process. Where the appellants successfully showed that the revenue earned as a payment of 1% rental fees is far less than the expenditure they incur in producing those films, the respondents couldn’t provide any satisfactory data.

The owner or occupier of any place permits the place to be used in contravention.

Section 14: If the owner or person in charge of a cinematograph permits that place to be used in contravention then such person shall be punishable with fine as mentioned under this section.

Whether sentence could not be directed to be reduced on payment of fine when Court had expressed view that sentence was required to be enhanced?

Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy vs. Sushil Ansal and Ors. (09.02.2017 - SC): MANU/SC/0142/2017

Facts: An incident of fire occurred at Uphaar Cinema Theatre in Green Park, South Delhi wherein 59 persons lost their life and about 100 persons were injured. On charge of criminal negligence, apart from others, Respondent the licencee for running the cinema and his brother who was conducting the business of cinema, were convicted by the Trial Court. The High Court upheld the conviction but reduced the sentence to one year rigorous imprisonment. A two Judge bench of the present Court upheld the conviction but differed on the quantum of sentence. In view of difference of opinion the matter was referred to the three Judge Bench "to the extent that the said appeals involve the question of quantum of sentence to be awarded". The Three Judge Bench held that the sentence awarded by the High Court needs to be enhanced to the maximum period of two years but in lieu of additional period of sentence of one year, the substantial amount of fine needs to be imposed.
Held: It was held that in case the said amount of fine is paid, the sentence should be reduced to the period already undergone. On the principle of parity, the case of would stand on the same footing. A fine was imposed on each Appellant and if the said fine is paid, the sentence of the Appellants be reduced to the sentence already undergone. The review was sought mainly on the ground that once the Court expressed the view that sentence was required to be enhanced, the same could not be directed to be reduced on payment of fine.