The Bombay High Court has given a final opportunity to Maharashtra government to submit its affidavit in response to a petition by noted filmmaker-actor Amol Palekar challenging the rules which make the pre-censorship of play scripts mandatory. The government had last month orally informed the court that as per a notification issued in March this year, pre-censorship of plays and dramas was no longer mandatory.
The court had then directed the government to put this in writing and submit an affidavit by October 4. However, on that day government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani sought more time to file the affidavit. Palekar’s advocate then informed the court that while the government has orally said that pre-censorship was not mandatory, as per media reports the Maharashtra State Performance Scrutiny Board which used to clear the play scripts has taken objection to government’s notification.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak then directed the government to quickly clarify their stand and file an affidavit. “How much time you (government) are taking to file an affidavit. We are giving you one last chance if by then affidavit is not filed it will be taken that the government has nothing to say,” Chief Justice Chellur said.
“Finally we are giving the government a week’s time to file their affidavit. The petitioner shall file rejoinder if they wish to and the matter shall be listed for hearing on October 18,” the court directed. As per the government notification, the rules for Licensing and Controlling Places of Public Amusement (other than cinemas) and Performance for Public Amusement including Melas and Tamashas will not include plays and dramas henceforth.
Palekar, in his petition, had termed the rules as arbitrary and violative of the fundamental rights of a citizen guaranteed under the Constitution. Under section 33(1)(wa) of the Bombay Police Act, the Commissioner of Police or Superintendent of Police can frame rules for regulation in the interest of public order, decency or morality and prior scrutiny of such performances and of the script was made mandatory. After scrutiny a certificate would be issued subject to conditions.