SC stays screening of ‘Hamare Baarah’ till Bombay HC decides

New Delhi, June 13 (Agency) The Supreme Court Thursday stayed the screening of Annu Kapoor’s film Hamare Baarah till the Bombay High Court decides the petition challenging its release and pulled up CBFC saying that it failed to discharge its statutory duty. The film, scheduled to release on June 14, is alleged to be derogatory towards the Islamic faith and married Muslim women in India. A vacation bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sandeep Mehta while hearing the plea challenging the Bombay High Court interim order which had permitted the release of the film directed that the case shall remain suspended till the High Court decides it. The Bench said that they watched the teaser of the movie and found it to be offensive. The Bench said that the teaser has objectionable materials. The teaser is available on YouTube,” Justice Mehta said.

“The teaser is so offensive that the High Court granted an interim order,” Justice Nath said while referring to the first interim order passed by the High Court staying the release of the film. The case pertains to a writ petition filed before the Bombay High Court by petitioner Azhar Basha Tamboli against the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), seeking to revoke the certification granted to the film “Hamare Baarah” and injunction its release. The petitioner alleged that the film, which was earlier set to release on June 7, was in contravention of the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, and the rules and guidelines associated with it. The petitioner argued that the trailer was derogatory to the Islamic faith and married Muslim women in India, and the film’s release would violate Articles 19(2) and Article 25 of the Constitution. The petitioner further said, that the trailer portrayed married Muslim women as having no independent rights as individuals in society and the same was based on a misreading of “Aayat 223,” a verse in the Quran.

The petitioner said despite modifications directed to be carried out before the release of the film, the trailer did not contain any disclaimer or reference to the certification granted by the CBFC. The CBFC contended that the certification for the film was granted after following all necessary procedures. It claimed that the objectionable scenes and dialogues were deleted and the trailers of the film released on YouTube and Book MyShow (referred to by the petitioner) were not certified trailers. After hearing the parties, the Bombay High Court had at first restrained the respondents from releasing the film in the public domain until June 14. Subsequently, the high court directed to constitute a 3-member review committee to watch the film and give its uninfluenced comments. When the committee failed to give comments and instead sought time to file a detailed response, the court permitted the release of the film, directing the filmmakers to voluntarily delete certain contentious dialogues without prejudice to their rights and contentions. The petitioner then challenged the High Court order permitting the release of the film and directing the constitution of a committee by the CBFC, in the Supreme Court.

During Thursday’s hearing before the top oucrt, Advocate Fauzia Shakil (for petitioner) argued that the High Court erred in asking the CBFC to appoint a committee, as it was an interested party. Agreeing with the counsel, Justice Mehta noted that the petitioner had raised contentions against CBFC and it was an interested party. Advocate Manish Srivastava appearing for some respondents argued that the filmmakers had a right to release the film, as there was a CBFC certification in place. Srivastava said since the teaser has been removed from public platforms, there should be no objection to releasing the film. The Apex Court ultimately left it for the High Court to decide the case on merits and stayed the screening of the film till such time. The court gave the liberty to object to the constitution of the committee by the CBFC before the High Court. “Both the parties will extend full cooperation in the disposal of the main petition and would not seek any adjournment,” the Court made clear.