Noted Bollywood filmmaker Prakash Jha has moved the Supreme Court, seeking compensation from the Punjab government for banning his film, Aarakshan, last year. Jha contends that the Punjab government had violated his constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression by enforcing the ban.
According to the filmmaker, the state had no right to issue the ban order as the Central Board of Film Certification had certified the movie for public viewing after a committee of experts — including Dalit activists — cleared it.
The panel also included retired Punjab and Haryana High Court chief justice Mukul Mudgal.
The ban order was struck down by the SC after Jha challenged it before the judicial forum. The film could not be shown in the state for three days, from August 12 to 14. Aarakshan, featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, was a socio-political drama based on the controversial policy of caste-based reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.
Taking note of Jha's petition, a bench of justice RM Lodha and justice AK Dave issued a notice to Punjab government and the Union of India.
Jha's counsel senior advocate Harish Salve told the court that the director was seeking symbolic damages from the state government for the loss incurred due to the ban. The director's appeal, challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict dismissing Jha's demand for compensation, has quantified the loss at around Rs. 30 crore. He claimed that the ban order led to controversies that affected the box office collections across the country.
Salve, however, said that even Rs. 1 in damages would be sufficient. But, it should not come from tax payers, but from the officials responsible, he added.