New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday quashed the Centre’s notification banning smoking scenes in films, saying it violated film-makers’ fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.
“Director of films should not have multifarious authorities breathing down their necks when indulging in creative act,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said striking down the rules framed by the Centre in October 2006 for banning on-screen smoking.
Justice Kaul passed the order as an umpire judge after a division bench had earlier given a split verdict on the petition of Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt challenging the curbs imposed by the government.
A division bench of Justice Mukul Mudgal and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had given a split verdict on the issue on 7 February 2008.
The two judges had different opinions on the constitutional validity of a provision in the Cigarettes and other Tobacco products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003 which bans smoking scenes in films.
While Justice Mudgal held that the rules should be quashed, Justice Khanna upheld their validity.
“I have held rules are valid in accordance with Section 5 of the Act,” Justice Khanna had said.
“It is clear that the blanket ban on production of films and television serials which show a smoking scene is a direct encroachment on the creativity and free artistic expression of the maker of such film or television serial guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a),” Justice Mudgal had said.
After failing to arrive at a consensus on the issue, the bench referred the matter to the Chief Justice of the High Court which appointed Justice Kaul as an umpire judge to decide the constitutional validity of Centre’s action.