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SC allows conditional screening of 'Sadda Haq'

Date : 19/04/2013

Vital Media V/S State of Punjab and ORS.

W.P. (C) NO. 205 OF 2013

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Censor Board to consider whether the “U” certificate granted to Punjabi film “Sadda Haq” that allegedly glorifies extremism era can be changed to “A” following recommendation of a court appointed panel which did not favour suspending its screening.

After perusing the report of the four-member committee, which watched the movie on Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the Central Board of Film Certification which is the statutory authority will re-consider its decision on Monday after which the film can be released across the country.

The order was passed on a plea challenging the ban on screening of the film in Delhi, Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. The report by the committee comprising senior advocates Fali Nariman, Rajiv Dhavan, Indira Jaising (Additional Solicitor General) and Rebecca John said the Board when it looks into the final version of the film, may “seriously re-consider whether the film present classification as ‘U’ (under section 5A of the Cinematograph Act, 1952) is at all appropriate or whether the film should be only certified as ‘A’ film”.

The committee dismissed the apprehension of governments of Delhi, Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh that the screening of the film is likely to cause breach of law and order.

“We are of the considered view that suspending the screening of the film on the ground that it is likely to cause a breach of peace calling for pre-emptive action by state authorities is totally inappropriate since it is the duty of the state to maintain law and order and prevent any apprehended breach of peace.

“This view is consistent with the law already laid down by this court, in particular, in the judgement in the Union of India Vs K M Shankarappa,” the note given by the panel to the court said.

About the Case

The film “Sadda Haq” depicts the real picture of Punjab during the militancy days. It is a story of a hockey player – Kartar Singh Bazz – whose circumstances weighed down his passion for the game and compelled him to be a militant instead. The story shows how many extremely talented Sikh youngsters in India fell prey to the state of affairs and became what they never wanted to become. The unchecked use of torture made the period 1980’s to mid 1990’s one of the most disturbed periods in the history of Punjab.

The film was set to be released on the 5th of April, 2013. But on 4th of April, 2013, the Government of Punjab issued a notification suspending the screening of the film indicating that a Committee set up by the Punjab Government consisting of the Chief Secretary and other high officials, which had viewed the film was of the view that the screening of the film was likely to cause a breach of the peace. The said notification was followed by another notification dated 5th April, 2013 issued by the Government of NCT of Delhi and then by the District Magistrate, UT Chandigarh for the same very reason.

One of the main reasons for the banning of screening of the film has been the use of the song “Baagi” which is said to have been used as a promotional engine for the purpose of promoting the film.

Thereafter, Vital Media filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court of India challenging the constitutionality of the stay order and praying for the revocation of the stay order so that the film can be screened in the above mentioned three states.

The Supreme Court, after hearing the arguments of both the parties, requested a group of four learned senior advocates practicing in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court to view the film and to submit a report to the Hon’ble Court.


The said learned Counsel submitted their views in writing whereby they recommended that the certificate of the film from “U” may be changed to “A”, which was unconditionally accepted by the Petitioner. Also, it was further agreed that the song “Baggi” shall not in any way be used either for promotional purposes or as a background to the film. The said song shall not in any way be identified with the film “Sadda Haq”.

The Hon’ble Court further ordered the Censor Board to take a decision in the matter and issue “A” certificate to the film by Monday, the 19th April, 2013 as the film has already been released in other parts of the country and that pirated CDs of the film has been starting to be circulated in the market.

The Hon’ble Court also ordered the makers, producers and distributors of the film to publish a disclaimer regarding the use of the promotional song, as far as the film is concerned.

The Writ Petition stands disposed.

Contact Person:
Adv Juno Rahman

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