Film makers and playwrights in Maharashtra had better watch how they portray police personnel in films and plays as they could end up in jail for up to five years. The state government doesn’t want cops portrayed “in a bad light” and proposes to ensure this through a new law.
The proposed Internal Security Act has some other stringent provisions too, such as curbs on more than 100 people assembling at a place, which have drawn protests from opposition parties and civil society activists who say they violate fundamental rights.
“The proposed law makes it mandatory to seek permission of the police if 100 or more people are coming together. Does that mean people would need permission for a marriage ceremony,” asked Opposition leader in the assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. Besides, “Why should the government object to depiction of police personnel in a street play or in theatre or a movie,” he asked.
The government on Wednesday clarified that the draft was released for suggestions and objections from the public and that it was open to modifications.
On the assembly of 100 or more people, KP Bakshi, additional chief secretary (home), clarified that functions in private homes would not attract any restrictions. The clause was not part of the draft. “It was a provision in the Act promulgated in Andhra Pradesh and cited in the covering letter just as an example. The number of the people will be decided in due course.”
Bakshi stressed that it was a misconception that the police would get unlimited powers as the force always acted under the control of the government authorities.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant told HT, “This draft gives unbridled powers to the police and the intention behind such a law is to muzzle democratic dissent and not terror or crime. There can be no suggestions or objections to it, the entire draft has to be taken back.”
The Nationalist Congress Party has also termed the draft as an attempt to muzzle dissent and threatened to carry out an agitation if it was not shelved.
“First the government tried to bring in an order allowing sedition charges to be applied against criticism of those in power. After that was held back, now through this law they are trying to suppress all opposition and create an emergency-like situation,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.
Bakshi, however, said that the fundamental rights of the citizens would not be compromised. “It is not true that the citizens will be banned from celebrating festivals and private functions such as weddings, naming ceremonies without permissions. The permissions for house functions will not be required. Celebrations at public places need the police permissions even today. The draft itself clearly states that the rights of employees under the labour laws would not be compromised,” he added.