SC Upholds Freedom Of Expression, Refuses To Stay Documentary On Aravind Kejriwal [Read Order]

The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and A. M. Khanwilkar on Thursday dismissed a writ petition seeking an injunction against the release of the film ‘ An Insignificant Man ’, documenting the life of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The petition, registered on Wednesday, was filed by social activist Nachiketa Walhekar, former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) General Secretary from Tehsil Parner in the Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra, who had created a furore at an Aam Aadmi Party press conference in New Delhi on 18th November, 2013 by throwing black ink at Kejriwal and other party leaders. It was the contention of the petitioner that the said film causes damage to his reputation in so much as it contains a video footage of the petitioner at the said press conference. The petitioner submitted that the film depicts him as guilty of the offence even though the trial in respect of the offence is still pending and sought a direction from the apex court to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to stay the release of the film until the removal of the impugned video clipping or the insertion of a disclaimer stating that the issue of commission of the offence by the petitioner is presently subjudice.

The advocate appearing on behalf of Walhekar submitted before the apex court that though the said video was initially showed by the media, upon a complaint case being instituted at the Patiala House Court Complex, New Delhi, the same was not displayed thereafter and that the CBFC has committed wrong in issuing a certificate to such a film. The learned counsel further argued that the depiction of the petitioner in such light is a violation of his rights as guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The bench refused to grant the relief prayed for and dismissed the petition, observing, “The freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with...A film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind. ” The court further remarked, “The Courts are to be extremely slow to pass any kind of restraint order in such a situation and should allow the respect that a creative man enjoys in writing a drama, a play, a play-let, a book on philosophy, or any kind of thought that is expressed on the celluloid or theater.”

“Be it noted, a film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind. The human history records that there are many authors who express their thoughts according to the choice of their words, phrases, expressions and also create characters who may look absolutely different than an ordinary man would conceive of. A thought provoking film should never mean that it has to be didactic or in any way puritanical. It can be expressive and provoking the conscious or the sub-conscious thoughts of the viewer. If there has to be any limitation, that has to be as per the prescription in law”, said the bench.

The bench also declined to address the apprehension of the petitioner that the film, releasing all over India on Friday, 17th November, 2017, might be admitted in evidence by the trial court before which the said matter is pending, leaving it to the trial court “to adjudge under the Evidence Act”.

Read the Order Here