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HC asks CBFC to reconsider U/A certificate to film

Santa Banta Pvt Ltd

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court today directed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to reconsider the U/A certification issued to an upcoming film ‘Santa Banta Pvt Ltd’, which has evoked a controversy with a Sikh group claiming it made fun of the community.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath asked CBFC to treat as a representation the petition filed by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), which has contended that the movie, scheduled for release on April 22, makes fun of the Sikh community and it could lead to “disturbance”.

“In the facts of this case, we, therefore, consider it appropriate to direct the respondent number 2/CBFC to treat this petition as a representation and consider whether the U/A certificate issued to the film in question requires reconsideration,” the bench said.

“Though the respondent 3 (distributor) made available to this court a CD of the film in question, instead of this court viewing it and deciding the question as to whether contents of the film would prejudicially affect rights of Sikh community or not, we consider it appropriate to direct the CBFC, which is a statutory body of experts, to consider the tenability of objections raised by petitioners in the light of provisions of the Cinematograph Act and the rules made thereunder as well as the guidelines issued by the Central Government and to take an appropriate decision in accordance with law,” it said.

The court said the distributor holding marketing rights of the film, its producer and director should “submit their response, if any, to the allegations made by the petitioners within two days from today.”

The bench, which disposed of the petition, said the CBFC should give opportunity to both parties to be heard and “pass an appropriate order in accordance with law on or before April 8 and communicate it to the petitioners.”

The court, which had on March 23 reserved its order on DSGMC’s plea against the release of the movie, also said it considered it appropriate to direct the CBFC to consider the tenability of objections raised by petitioners in the light of the provisions of the Cinematograph Act and other rules.

During the hearing on the petition earlier, the censor board had stood by its decision to certify it on the ground that there was nothing objectionable.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for CBFC, had earlier told the court that the board has certified the movie after considering all aspects and nothing offensive towards the community was found.

The ASG had said that under the Cinematograph Act, only the producers can challenge the Board’s order in the appellate tribunal and the petitioner cannot do so in the instant case.

The producers, Viacom 18, and the film’s director had opposed the plea saying there was no public interest in it and nor did the movie make fun of the community.

They had opposed maintainability of the plea saying the DSGMC had on March 8 sent them a notice seeking change in the film’s name, taking down of its posters and demanding Rs 100 crore as damages, but not a word was mentioned that the movie should not be released.

They had also contended that the posters were removed in view of the objections of the petitioner.

DSGMC in its petition had sought stay on the release of the film contending that it “misrepresented” the community and projected “the personality of the community in defamatory and denigrating manner” which could cause “disturbance”.

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