[Case Brief] Manohar Lal Sharma v/s Sanjay Leela Bhansali & Others, 2017

The petitioner in the present case is Manohar Lal Sharma who appeared-in-person. The instant petition was filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution as a Public Interest Litigation. Manohar Lal Sharma prayed for the following things:

  1. A film titled “Padmavati” should not be exhibited in other countries without obtaining the requisite certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) under the Cinematograph Act, 1952 and the Rules and guidelines framed thereunder.
  2. The Court should issue a writ of mandamus to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), respondent No. 5 herein, to register an FIR against the respondent Nos. 1 and 2 and their team members for offence punishable under Section 7 of the Act read with Sections 153A, 295, 295A, 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 4 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and to investigate and prosecute them in accordance with law.

It was argued by the respondents that such petition was already filed by the petitioner earlier before the Supreme Court and the Court had dismissed the same.

The Supreme Court opinion:

Before the statutory authority takes a decision, writ petitions claiming public interest cannot be filed. The hunger for publicity or some other hidden motive should not propel one to file such petitions. Additionally, a petition is not to be filed to abuse others. When the matter is pending for grant of certification if responsible people in power or public offices comment on the issue of certification pending consideration before the statutory authority that is a violation of the rule of law.
A story told on celluloid or a play enacted on a stage or a novel articulated in a broad and large canvas or epic spoken with eloquence or a poem sung with passion or recited with rhythm has many a layer of freedom of expression of thought that requires innovation, skill, craftsmanship and, above all, individual originality founded on the gift of imagination or reality transformed into imagination or vice versa. The platform can be different and that is why the creative instinct is respected and has the inherent protective right from within which is called artistic license. We may categorically state that the artistic license should be put on a high pedestal but the same has to be judged objectively on a case-to-case basis.
It is settled in law that no right is absolute but the fetters for enjoying the rights should be absolutely reasonable more so when it relates to the right to freedom of speech and expression and right to liberty.

Decision Held:

A similar matter was filed in a different manner by the same petitioner, forming the subject matter of Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 186/2017 wherein the Supreme Court has directed that such pleadings are unwarranted. Despite this, the same has been reiterated in the present petition. When a writ petition is filed and the dates of events are mentioned, they constitute a part of the pleadings. Thus the prayer is dismissed. It is further directed that such pleadings shall not be included anywhere in future, and shall not be mentioned anywhere else. When the grant of a certificate is pending before the CBFC, any kind of comment or adjudication by this Court would be pre-judging the matter.
As far as Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC is concerned, police have no role. As far as the other offenses are concerned, it is unfathomable how any offense is made out. There is no basis for this Court to direct registration of an FIR. The pleadings are absolutely scurrilous, vexatious and untenable in law. The CBFC is expected to take decisions with utmost objectivity as per the provisions contained in the Act, the rules framed thereunder and the guidelines. If the Court cannot pre-judge the matter before the CBFC takes a decision, anyone in public office can also not pre-judge the issue and make public utterances.

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