Bombay high court refuses to stay pre-censorship of play scripts; final hearing on Dec 4
The Bombay high court on Wednesday refused to stay an amendment to the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951, under which pre-censorship of scripts of plays is mandatory in the state.
A division bench of justices Shantanu Kemkar and Anuja Prabhudessai, however, expedited hearing of the petition filed by noted actor and filmmaker Amol Palekar, who has challenged the constitutional validity of section 33(1)(wa) of the Act and the rules framed under the section.
Palekar’s counsel advocate Shreehari Aney pointed out that several scenes were required to be deleted from Sakharam Binder, a well-known play, without any public performances.
He said that because of the section several plays were suffering similar fate. The bench, however, posted the petition for the final hearing on December 4 and said it was not appropriate to stay the statutory provision at the interim stage.
Section 33(1)(wa) empowers the commissioner or superintendent of police to frame rules to give license for dramas, plays and any other public performances. Under the rules, scrutiny of performance and scripts of plays has been mandatory “for regulation in the interest of public order, decency or morality”.
Palekar — who has been involved with the theatre for past 30 years as an actor, director and producer — said that “pre-censorship leads to curtailment of artistic freedom because of which many historic plays have not been performed in their original form”.
The actor cited examples of producers and directors of famous Marathi plays such as Sakharam Binder, Gidhade and Khairlanji had to fight against pre-censorship to retain original scripts.
He further argued that the decision of the Scrutiny Board reflected arbitrariness and substantial changes were observed in the its approach when new chairman and members were appointed. His petition stated that such pre-censorship for plays exist only in Maharashtra and Gujrat. In Tamil Nadu, a similar rule has been struck down by the high court, holding it unconstitutional.