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"Gag orders of the sort as prayed for would be a complete antithesis of the liberal principles of a democracy and a democratic religion like Hinduism", the Court said.
The Calcutta High Court recently rebuked a petitioner for moving Court seeking a ban on release of a film , thereby "harassing filmmakers unnecessarily". The petitioner had claimed that the title of the film had hurt his religious sentiments.
The single Judge Bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya dismissed the petition challenging the release of the film Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti and imposed costs of a token amount of Re 1 on him. The Court said that such move by litigants to rake up frivolous issues needs to be deprecated.
The petitioner had challenged the release of the film claiming that his religious sentiments were hurt on account of the name of the film. He contended that the title is against morality and will hurt Hindu sentiments given that it uses the name of the Hindu deity Brahma along with the phrase "Gopon Kommoti", which roughly translates to "secret act".
The Court said that the petitioner appears to have approached the Court on a mistaken notion of Hinduism and that if the title of the film hurts the petitioner's religious sentiments as a Hindu, then he ought to mend his own sentiments.
It was the petitioner's case, that the film would be brought under the purview of Sections 295A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code for hurting religious sentiments.
Section 295A deals with Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious belief whereas Section 298 of the IPC deals with Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings of any person.
The State, which was made party to this Writ petition as the Respondent, argued that the Police or the authorities did not have the power to stop screening of a film. Besides, on the question of merits of the petition, the State argued that the grounds for challenge that the title is malicious and is likely to hurt religious sentiments is vague and unexplained in the petition.
It was further pointed out by the State that, while invoking penal provisions under the IPC, the petitioner was seeking an injunction by way of seeking a ban on the release of the film. The Court agreed with the State that the same would not be valid.
On the point of vagueness of the grounds of "morality" claimed by the petitioner, the Court came down heavily on the petitioner to say that the Court cannot conclude that there is an intentional attempt to hurt religious sentiments "at the drop of a hat" on account of one person. Further, the Court added that the petition does not delve into how the phrase used in the film title would amount to being filthy or hurtful.
The phrase used as the title of the film is also a commonly used adage in the Bengali language, the Court observed. The Bench added that it is unclear how using the name of a deity with the phrase meaning a secret act can be construed to be filthy or derogatory.
The Court said that the concept of Lord Brahma need not be elaborated in this matter, but also went ahead to say that the Hindu religion would not have survived for so many centuries if it was so fragile and wounded easily as is claimed by the petitioner here.
The fundamental rights concerning religious freedom as well as freedom of speech and expression also also spoken about by the Court, which said that there has to be a balance between these rights.
The Court. thus, finding no irregularity or even an element of crime under Section 298 of the IPC, dismissed the plea while imposing costs of Re 1.