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Freedom of speech, considered the basic freedom by most philosophical thinkers, consists of several facets, including the right to express one’s opinion unhindered, unfettered by the fear of retribution. It is one of the most basic elements for a healthy, open minded democracy. It allows people to freely participate in the social and political happenings of their country.
The essence of free speech is the ability to think and speak freely and to gain in formation from others through their publications and public conversations without the fear of retribution, restriction, or repression by the government. It is through this free speech that people come together to strengthen their morality and to help others become moral and enlightened citizens and if possible achieve political influence. This essence of freedom lies in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. The law states that, “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”. Under Article 19(2) “reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes. Any limitation on the exercise of the right under Article 19(1) (a) not falling within the four corners of Article 19(2) cannot be valid.
Film Censorship and Freedom Article 19(2) of the Constitution provides that this right is not absolute and ‘reasonable restrictions’ may be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes. These purposes include broadcasting of content which regarding defamation of various topics such as the government, religion, culture, history, etc. which can lead to internal feuds or national instability. Though this restriction can be considered reasonable there are times when this situation is misused by others. One such example is film censorship. The rights of the film makers have always been facing this obstacle for a long time. There are many film makers who have not been able to publish their films because of these restrictions because of which they often face a lot of difficulties as these films are their bread and butter. Many films are banned or targeted in the name of maintaining public order; respecting beliefs, sentiments and traditions, but most are targeted for ulterior motives mainly political which will be later discussed in this paper. But there are some movies which got banned for legit reasons. One such movie is the Da Vinci Code based on the bestselling 2003 novel by author Dan Brown.
It is a mystery/detective novel with Jesus Christ (his relation with Mary Magdelene) and Christianity amalgamated into it. Aside from a few hiccups and dissents, the motion picture was however discharged with a blast in the vast majority of the Western Christian nations on May 18, 2006. In spite of the fact that the novel is on sale (both original and pirated copies) in India since its distribution, there was a huge outcry in many states of India by the Christian communities to ban the film from screening in India for the perceived anti-Christian message. Finally through special screenings for various Catholic leaders and even the Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, the Censor Board finally gave the film an ‘A’ certification and cleared it. But the Board forced the distributor, Sony Pictures to insert a 15-second legal disclaimer card both at the beginning and at the end stating that the movie was purely a tale of fiction.
However, the saga does not end here. Even after the clearance, the protests by several Christian organizations continued and the movie was gradually banned by seven State Governments. In some places the Muslims also joined hands in the protests. The storyline was alleged to be to hurt the ‘religious sentiments’ of Christians as well as Muslims!! Meanwhile, a PIL was filed before the Supreme Court seeking for a complete ban not only on the movie but on the novel as well but the petition was rejected. Afterwards the Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu High Courts have also quashed the ban in the respective states.
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