The Government can go ahead with the announcement of the long-awaited 53rd National Film Awards for feature and non-feature films.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the July 27, 2006 order of the Bombay High Court that had directed the Government to dispense with the requirement of censor board certificate for screening of films for the Award.
A Bench of Justice Tarun Chatterji and Justice RV Raveendran upheld the Centre’s stand that films made by independent filmmakers must get certificates from the Censor Board of Film Certification.
On a petition filed by noted film maker Anand Patwardhan and two others, the High Court had struck down as discriminatory the Government regulation that exempted only Doordarshan and Film and Television Institute of India films from the requirement of prior censor board clearance.
Petitioners - Patwardhan, Gaurav Ashvin Jani and Simantiini Dhuruv - had contended that not giving the exemption from censor board certificate to the works of independent filmmakers was arbitrary and against their fundamental right to equality and freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.
The Centre chose not to announce the awards and instead challenged the High Court order in the apex court that stayed the High Court verdict in December last year.
The Centre submitted that if films were allowed to participate in the Awards without censorship certificate, there was likelihood of a substantial difference in the film screened and awarded and the certified version of the same available for public viewing.
Reacting to the verdict, Patwardhan told Hindustan Times that "it is a retrograde verdict putting powers in the hands of the bureaucrats who are known to be prone to pressure from the political party in power."
Maintaining that awards were meant to recognise the creativity of an artist, he said “in fact now the awards should go to the censor board as the original work of an artist would not be allowed to be screened before the jury."