The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought response of the Centre and the Censor Board to a plea by producer of film ‘#MeToo’ who has challenged an order asking him to change the movie’s title and delete several scenes from it.
The movie portrays kidnapping of a girl with the motive of committing a sexual crime.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) whether they gave a proper opportunity to the film’s producer Sajid Iqbal Qureshi to be heard before passing the order.
The court directed the ministry and CBFC to file their response before the next date of hearing on May 3.
Qureshi, in his plea, has claimed that he was not given an adequate opportunity to be heard by the board before it passed the order.
He has sought setting aside of the November 12, 2018 CBFC order by which it directed public exhibition of the movie be restricted to adults subject to carrying out of “several excisions/modifications/ cuts”.
The board had also asked him to change the title of the movie or insertion of a disclaimer, the plea said and has sought a stay on the CBFC order.
The petition has said that the portrayal of the female character, who is a victim of kidnapping with the objective of committing a sexual crime, is a highly sensitive issue and any tampering with the scenes, meddling with the script can cripple the narrative.
It alleged that as the petitioner is a young film-maker, his work is being treated with “discrimination and bias” and is being made a target of unnecessary and baseless censorship.
The plea has alleged violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which ensures equality to all before law, and said the directions for cuts/excisions are against the rule of law.
Regarding the board’s recommendation to change the title ‘#MeToo’, the petition has said that CBFC has not given any reasonable justification for it and their view that the complexity of the ‘Me Too’ movement would be misunderstood or compromised if the title is not changed, is absolutely without any application of mind and neither rational nor justified.
“None of the directions contained in the order (of CBFC), whether with regard to change of the title of the movie or by way of insertion of disclaimer or deletions/ excisions/ modifications fall within the ambit of the Cinematograph Act of 1952 or the Guidelines and violate the Constitution of India and are hence illegal and deserve to be quashed/set aside,” it has said.
It has said the petitioner had addressed an email to the Film Certification Appellate Court on February 18 seeking permission to file an appeal against the CBFC order after the statutory period of 60 days as the delay was on account of the death of the producer’s mother.
However, the prayer was declined after which he approached the high court.