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Supreme Court flays netas over Padmavati remarks

The citizenry has the right to free speech, not those holding public posts, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Nov 29, 2017, 12.36 AM IST
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The CJI chastised the ruling class of raising the “trivial” to the “sublime” by its posturing.
The CJI chastised the ruling class of raising the “trivial” to the “sublime” by its posturing.

NEW DELHI:The Supreme Court on Tuesday tore into the political class, especially those holding important public posts, for ignoring the basic tenet of rule of law and commenting on the fate of Hindi film Padmavati when it was yet to be cleared by the censor board.

The citizenry has the right to free speech, not those holding public posts, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said. They cannot comment on the film as it could influence the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the court said.

“The movie has still not got a certificate. What the CBFC will do is in its statutory realm. Why should anyone holding a responsible public office comment on the movie while it was still pending before the CBFC? Do not comment unless required whatever be the piece of art,” the CJI said.

In another comment, the CJI chastised the ruling class of raising the “trivial” to the “sublime” by its posturing. “It’s a movie,” he said. “This must stop.

And we are not talking about the right to free speech of the citizenry,” the CJI pointedly told the government’s two law officers in the court, additional solicitors general PS Narasimha and Maninder Singh. The remarks came amid a barrage of political statements on the movie, including by some chief ministers.

The CJI had on an earlier occasion frowned upon a state minister’s comment terming a rape case as a figment of imagination.

“Ministers must refrain from commenting on matters pending for investigation as it prejudices investigation and thereby rights of the victims,” he had then remarked.

A petition that says such comments by ministers and elected lawmakers could prejudice the rights of citizenry is still pen-ding in the top court. It will most possibly be dealt with by a constitution bench.

On Tuesday, the court was dealing with a petition filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeking to prevent the release of the movie abroad. Appearing for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, senior advocate Harish N Salve, assisted by advocate Mahesh Agrawal, said the movie would not be released abroad as it would be bad for business.

“Once it is released in the UK, pirated versions will make its way back into India. There is no proposal to release it outside without first getting a certification though we have got certification from the UK board,” Salve told the court. The bench then dismissed the case.

But before that, the CJI, who was sitting alongside Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, made it very clear that while the grant of certification was still pending with the CBFC, any “comments” on the movie would “prejudice” the board and would tantamount to “usurping” its powers.

“If courts cannot prejudge an issue, no one can,” the CJI said. The bench also struck off a demand for filing cases against the producers and director of the movie for defamation and disrupting harmony, saying that such demands were “misconceived”

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