The Accidental Prime Minister: SLP Filed In SC Against Delhi HC's Dismissal Of Challenge To CBFC Certificate

The Accidental Prime Minister: SLP Filed In SC Against Delhi HC

After two failed attempts in the Delhi High Court challenging the certificate granted by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to the movie "The Accidental Prime Minister", Delhi-based designer Pooja Mahajan has now moved the Supreme Court.

Ms. Mahajan had first approached the high court, demanding suspension of the trailer of the movie. Justice Vibhu Bakhru had, however, disposed of this plea on Monday, asking the petitioner to file it as a public interest litigation (PIL) instead.

She had then filed a PIL, challenging the certificate granted by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to the movie. This petition was also dismissed on Wednesday, by a bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao.

Her Special Leave Petition now largely reiterates the contentions raised by her before the Delhi High Court, and asserts that the Division Bench of the High Court should have heard her petition on merits, especially after she was asked by the single judge to file a PIL.

She further impugns the certificate awarded to the film under Section 5A of the Cinematograph Act should be revoked in light of Section 5-E read with Section 13 of the Act.

The petition also contends that even though the movie claims to have been based on the same-titled book authorised by Sanjaya Baru, the trailer is not in fact based on the book. It bases this claim on the use of words such as "the elections season", "nuclear deal", "Kashmir issue", etc. in the trailer. This, it says, shows that the trailer is "motivated".

The trailer, it asserts, defames former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who enjoys national and international repute, and is causing "unaccountable damage" to the name and fame of the office of the Prime Minister of India.

The petition further alleges that the actors in the movie have committed the offence of cheating by impersonation under Section 416 of the Indian Penal Code. The CBFC, it therefore submits, could not have granted a certificate for screening and exhibition of the movie.

"…besides that, the film producers had no authority to violate the mandate of Constitution of India which provides respect towards the Constitutional functionaries. It seems that filmmakers, producers have made an attempt to make commercial gains and the act of "impersonation" have been committed deliberately to defame the office of Prime Minister just to hype the excitement amongst the prospective viewers," it submits.

Besides, it also contends that the trailer of the movie is spoiling India's relations with foreign states and is ultimately affecting the sovereignty and integrity of India. Highlighting CBFC's responsibility in such a scenario, it submits,

"Respondent No. 4 /CBFC is under statutory obligation under Cinematograph Act 1952 and Rules to judge the entire Trailer in its entirety from the viewpoint of its overall impact and should have examined in the light of country's sovereignty and integrity , country's image before entire world, as regarding unaccountable damage to the office of Prime Minister."

Additionally, it points out that the trailer violates Youtube's policy against impersonation as well, and submits that the movie makers should've taken a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Dr. Manmohan Singh and Ms. Sonia Gandhi before showcasing it.

Furthermore, the petition contends that the exhibition of the film will be "a disrespect to the Constitution and Constitutional Institution and will be in violation of Article 51-A of the Constitution of India".

It goes on to raise the following questions of law to be considered by the Apex Court:

  1. Whether a citizen can agitate the violation of Article 51-A of the Constitution of India regarding disrespect to the Constitution and Constitutional Institution by way of Public Interest Litigation or not?
  2. Whether the Hon'ble High Court was under a constitutional obligation under Article 226 to look into the matter on merits or not?

As an interim measure, it demands suspension of the release of the film during the pendency of the petition.