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High Court Strikes Down Petition for Ban on Gadar


The Indian Express, Chandigarh, Aug. 22, 2001

Photo: 'Gadar: Ek Prem Katha,' starring Sunny Deol and Amisha Patel

A double bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today rejected a petition calling for a ban on the film Gadar on the grounds that its portrayal has hurt the religious sensibilities of the Sikh community.

The judgment held that: 'The right of the artist to articulate; of the painter to paint according to his own perception, or of the film producer to project an event on the screen as he sees it, is also recognized under the Constitution. To the same extent and in the same measure as that of a fundamentalist to his faith.'

The two-member bench, comprising Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta and Justice Ashutosh Mohunta, further observed: 'We cannot carry religion on the palm of our hand. We cannot complain that every blow of the breeze bruises our religious susceptibilities.'

It goes on to say that: 'In the present case, we are satisfied that Gadar gives no ground to the petitioner to grumble. He has no cause for complaint.'

In a detailed judgment arguing strongly for the freedom of creative expression, the bench observed, 'India is an instance of unity in diversity. We have an acute diversity of caste, creed, faith and religion in this country. Of custom and usage. Of language.

'The dialect changes every few miles. A film-maker has a tough job on his hand. He has to cater to the needs of all sections of the society. In such cases, a narrow and pedantic approach cannot be adopted.'

The petitioner, Sant Eshar Singh, had alleged that the film contains scenes which offend the religious susceptibilities of the Sikh community. After failing to elicit any response from the Censor Board, he filed a writ petition before the High Court.

The petition argued that the portrayal of an amrit-dhari [initiated] Sikh and a Nihang were not in keeping with the Sikh religious tradition.

After rejecting the specific charges, the judgment goes on to make a far stronger observation. 'Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the petitioner's allegation has some basis. Does the act of the film-maker go beyond the reasonable limits of the Constitutional right of freedom of expression?'

Taking up a specific charge stated in the petition, the judgment further states: 'The counsel admitted that the boy is shown to be in love with the girl. He puts a mark on her forehead with his blood. She wears a mangal sutra [neckwear symbolizing marriage]. Is this evidence of broad-mindedness of the Sikhs or an effort to defame them?'

Dismissing the plea, the bench further adds: 'Do the scenes of the film go beyond the limits of reasonable exercise of the right of freedom of expression? Is there an attempt to hurt the religious sentiment? There is nothing on record to prove the petitioner's complaint.'