The censorship of plays in Maharashtra ended in March this year, the state government told the Bombay high court on Monday.
Assistant government pleader Vishal Thadani informed court that the then commissioner of police repealed the rule framed under provisions of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951 which required the script of plays to be placed for prior scrutiny before the Maharashtra State Performance Scrutiny Board (MSPSB).
Thadani was responding to a petition filed by noted actor and filmmaker Amol Palekar challenging the rules which mandated the censorship of plays by the MSPSB.
The actor contended that the rules for Licensing and Controlling Places of Public Amusement (other than cinemas) and Performance for Public Amusement including melas and tamashas were arbitrary and violated the fundamental right freedom of speech and expression, guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
Under the rules, the scrutiny of performances and scripts had been made mandatory “for regulation in the interest of public order, decency or morality”. Post scrutiny, a certificate was issued.
Palekar, who has been involved with theater for the past 30 years as an actor, director and producer, contended that, “pre-censorship led to a curtailment of artistic freedom because of which, many historic plays could not be performed in their original form.”
He stated how producers and directors of famous Marathi plays such Sakharam Baindar, Gidhade and Khairlanji had to fight to retain their original scripts. He objected to the decisions of the MSPSB, stating that those reflected “rampant arbitrariness” and substantial changes were noticed the board’s approach each time its chairman and members changed.
He sought to quash the relevant section and rules on the ground that the Bombay Police Act was enacted with the purpose of regulating the police force in Maharashtra and thus section 33(1)(wa) violates Article 14.
After Thadani produced the notification for the court’s perusal, a bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice MS Sonak felt that after the relevant rule was repealed, nothing was left to hear. However, it posted the petition for further hearing on next Tuesday after the actor’s counsel sought time to examine the repealing notification.