CBFC’s job is to certify, not censor: Bombay HC on Udta Punjab

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 13, 2016 15:31 IST
Actors Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh star in the controversial film Udta Punjab that revolves around the drug menace in Punjab. The censor board told filmmakers to cut references to Punjab and do away with the expletives in the film, among other cuts. (IANS File Photo)

The Bombay high court on Monday began dictating its order on the plea filed by the filmmakers of Udta Punjab regarding the cuts suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

While summarising the arguments made by both sides over the last week, the HC suggested that the filmmakers might be granted relief against the numerous cuts, though with revised disclaimers.

Read | Udta Punjab: Bombay HC to rule on censor board’s cuts to Kashyap’s film today

Citing that while it was an “undisputed fact that the CBFC had legal powers to suggest cuts and thus, creative freedom was not an absolute,” a HC bench stated it must be kept in mind that the censor board cannot use its powers “arbitrarily”.

The board had objected to the film’s references to Punjab given its focus on drugs, and objected to the expletive-laden scirpt of the film, among other things. The filmmakers argued citing the context of the film, and further pointed out that board had cleared the trailer of the film which contained the same elements.

The HC said that though there was a “heavy burden on CBFC to justify its restrictions”, while reviewing scripts the CBFC must consider the work as a whole and not randomly “pick out words from dialogues and songs and object to them out of context”.

Read | Bombay HC asks censor board not to be ‘overly critical’ of Udta Punjab

“Though the board (is) empowered to make cuts, it must remember that its job is to certify and not censor,” the court re-iterated its stand from earlier.

Addressing both the makers of the film and the board, Justice SC Dharmadhikari said one must realise the importance of films as a medium of social change.

“We have gone through the script of Udta Punjab and it nowhere suggests that it affects the sovereignty and integrity of the nation or the state. Easy availability and accessibility of drugs has taken a toll particularly on the youth of Punjab and the authorities are struggling to control the menace. The filmmakers have chosen to highlight this problem through the character of Tommy, a rock star, who causes his own downfall through drug abuse,” the court said.

The high court, which broke for lunch, is likely to continue dictating the order at 3 pm.

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