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Judges differ on banning smoking in films

The much-debated issue of banning smoking in cinema has left a Delhi High Court bench divided, forcing it to refer the matter to another court on Thursday.

delhi Updated: Feb 08, 2008 11:37 IST

The much-debated issue of banning smoking in cinema has left a Delhi High Court bench divided, forcing it to refer the matter to another court on Thursday.

The division bench comprising of Justices Mukul Mudgal and Sanjiv Khanna was to pronounce the verdict on Thursday, but could not do so as the two judges had formed different opinions on whether smoking scenes be shown in the movies. They had reserved the ruling for more than six months.

Justice Mudgal in his judgement has stressed the point that banning smoking in films will hamper the right to freedom of speech and expression.

"The blanket restriction put on the scenes of smoking in all films and television serials even with the editorial justification cannot be sustained, as it is, in my view, unreasonable and violates Article 19(1)(a) for that reason," said Justice Mudgal in his order.

Such a blanket ban would clearly proscribe the depiction of what actually transpires in life in this country and curb artistic expression and creative freedom contrary to the law laid down, he said.

Justice Mudgal cited examples from the TV serials based on Mahabharata and Ramayana, in which scenes of gambling, kidnapping and deceit were shown, and said such depictions cannot be legitimately prohibited to promote a morally idealistic society.

"Imagine a movie where all is well and every character is moral and obeys the laws and is happy and contended. Such a script, apart from being very boring, also necessarily has to be very short," said Mudgal in his order.

Justice Khanna completely differed from him and referred the matter to the chief justice's court for Feb 14.

The high court July 25 last year reserved its order on the petition of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt challenging the validity of the Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production and Supply Act, 2003, which bans smoking scenes in films.

The act also imposes smoking ban in the public places.