The Supreme Court on Friday slammed the Tamil Nadu government for banning the screening of film Dam 999, saying that "when the whole country has one constitution, your state can't have a separate constitution".
A bench of justice Asok Kumar Ganguly and justice JS Khehar asked the state's additional advocate general Guru Krishna Kumar how the state government could suspend the screening of the film after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has granted a certificate for the exhibition of the film.
The court's remarks came in the course of the hearing of a petition by Dam 999 producer-director Sohan Roy challenging the Dec 16, 2011, ban on the screening of his film by the Tamil Nadu government for six months.
The court, however, did not pass any order staying the state government's ban order.
Justice Ganguly said: "The law is clear and the freedom of speech and expression has to be protected. If you are apprehending the breach of peace and law and order, it is your duty to take steps to prevent the same."
The court said this when the counsel for the state government sought to justify the ban on the film in the wake of tension between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over Mullaperiyar dam controversy.
It said that the state government had no role to suspend the screening of a film once the censor board has allowed the screening of the film in the entire country and issued a certificate to that effect.
Additional solicitor general Mohan Jain, appearing for the central government, told the court that there was an apex court order on Prakash Jha's film Aarakshan in which it has been clearly laid down that the issue does not fall under the ambit of the state government once the CBFC has given certificate for universal exhibition.
However, Guru Krishna Kumar said that the judgment cited by the petitioner Sohan Roy and the ASG Mohan Jain involved general social issues, unlike the issue focused in the film which pertains to the issue of Mullaperiyar dam controversy.
He told the court that only now things have been brought under control in the border areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. "We don't want the things to flare up by the screening of the film."
As Guru Krishna Kumar insisted that Tamil Nadu would file a detailed reply giving reasons for suspending the screening of the film in the state, the court granted 10 days' time to file the reply asking it to file the same by Jan 25.
Justice Ganguly posted the hearing of the matter for Feb 9, before another bench as he is retiring on February 2, 2012.