The Supreme Court slammed a fine of Rs. 20 Lakh on the West Bengal government led by Mamta Banarjee since the government has falsely implicated a ‘virtual-ban’ on a film. The ban was placed on film ‘Bhobishoyter Bhoot’ which is believed to be a political satire.
The movie is directed by Anik Dutta and was released on 15th February 2019. It was certified by the Central Board of Film Certification for public viewing on 19th November 2018. The film depicts a group of ghosts including a politician who assemble at a refugee camp and then they try to deal with the contemporary issues.
The film was all set to be screened in single screen theaters and even multiplexes on more than 40 screens. But the film’s screening was stopped because of the administrative pressure from the officials of the state, and hence the present case was filed before the Supreme Court challenging the ‘virtual-ban’ on the film.
The Supreme Court bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr. Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Hemant Gupta was hearing to the matter. In the month of March, 2019, the bench directed the Joint Commissioner of Police (Intelligence), Special branch, Kolkata to immediately stop his request of a private screening of the socio-political satire for some members of the police department to determine the possible effect of the film on the public at large.
The Supreme Court was of the opinion that the Joint Police Commissioner acted beyond the scope of his legitimate powers and that he was at fault while requesting for a personal screening. On 26th March 2019 the Supreme Court directed the Principal Secretary, Department of Home, Government of West Bengal and the Director General of Police to immediately inform all the multiplexes and single-screen theaters that there is no ‘virtual-ban’ on the screening of the film ‘Bhobishoyter Bhoot’.
The Supreme Court in its order said that, this Court has time and again stated that when a film is duly certified by the Central Board of Film Certification then the state authorities have no power to issue any formal or informal directions preventing the producer from screening the film. And when the State Government does so it directly impugns the right of Freedom pf Speech and Expression guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
The petitioners urged the Supreme Court of ensure that their right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under the Fundamental Rights be protected and the illegal ban on the film be removed. The Supreme Court agreed to the arguments of the petitioners and hence decided to rule in their favor.
The Supreme Court showed some serious concerns regarding the growing intolerance in society against artistic freedom. Further they held that – “free speech cannot be gagged by the fear for the mob”.
Since the WB Government was held to be the defaulter here the Supreme Court imposed a fine of Rs. 20 Lakh on them. This amount is to be distributed amongst the producers and the cinema hall owners as a compensation for the violation of their right to Freedom of Speech and Expression by the WB Government.