The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has given a go-ahead to the release of a documentary film on the political debut of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party with UA certification, while setting aside the order of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) calling for NOC from political personalities depicted in the film.
The makers of film Yeh Jantantra Hai: An Insignificant Man had approached the FCAT against the May 19, 2017, order of the CBFC asking the producers to submit NOC for using footage of characters like Arvind Kejriwal, Sheila Dikshit, and Lok Sabha footage. The order also called for deletion of words ‘BJP’ and ‘Congress’ at several places.
The film is in the nature of a documentary, chronicling the political debut of “an insignificant man” i.e., Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party. Advocate Apar Gupta appeared for the appellants.
“There is considerable merit in the submission of the appellant that requiring NOC from public personalities would cull documentary cinema, rather render the making of a documentary on political scenario neigh impossible,” said the FCAT bench headed by chairperson Chief Justice (retd) Manmohan Sarin.
“The appellant in the documentary has, inter alia, quoted and reproduced excerpts from speeches and/ or taken from record events and information that is available in public domain. In these circumstances, requiring a film maker to obtain NOC from affected parties or characters in the film to whom references are made tantamount to CBFC abdicating its statutory functions. This is neither desirable nor permissible at law,” it said.
The tribunal noted that “the film gives an insider’s view into Kejriwal’s brand of politics, whereas on the one hand they are labelled as selfish and anarchic, on the other hand they are credited with having brought about a major shift in the Indian political paradigm”.
The filmmakers had told the tribunal that it took them 400 hours of footage shot over a course of two years to make the 100-minute film and the viewpoints of BJP and Congress were added to present an objective and balanced view.
Considering the affidavit filed by the film-maker, the tribunal said, “The appellant claims that they have taken due care and have made the film law compliant and would be responsible for the imputations. Further, they would plead justification and or fair comment as required. In this view of the matter, the political parties or persona named therein, if aggrieved by the film would have their remedies at law.”
“Moreover, allegations and counter allegations of corruption, nepotism and various scams appear in the media frequently… a fetter cannot be imposed on the screening of the film by way of prior restraint or requiring NOCs. Anyone aggrieved would have its remedy at law…,” the tribunal said.
On deletion of words ‘Congress’ and ‘BJP’ from the scene where Kejriwal asks in a public meeting how voters commute for casting their votes and a member from the public says transportation is provided by the ‘BJP’ and ‘Congress’, the tribunal said, “The provision of transportation for the voters to the polling booths by political parties is quite common. Given the present level of allegation and counter allegation prevalent, it appears not to be actionable for public restraint.”
“It is directed that a UA certificate be issued without requiring cuts as directed, except for the voluntary cut offered of deleting the Lok Sabha footage. The requirement of seeking an NOC from political personages and others as a pre-condition for certification of the documentary is held to be wholly unsustainable and not permissible at law,” the FCAT said.
Read the Order Here