Indibility Creative Pvt Ltd vs Govt of West Bengal - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2019

Indibility Creative Pvt Ltd vs Govt of West Bengal and Others - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2019 - 

On 11th April, 2019, in the case of Indibility Creative Pvt Ltd and Ors. v. Govt of West Bengal and Others [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 306 of 2019], while allowing the writ petition filed by producers of a Bengali feature film titled Bhobishyoter Bhoot, who contended that the State of West Bengal, its Department of Home and the Kolkata Police had caused an “utterly unlawful obstruction of the public exhibition of their Bengali feature film”, the Supreme Court held that “a remedy in public law for the grant of remedial compensation” was required in the present case and directed “the respondents to pay to the petitioners compensation” of Rs 20 lakhs.

The Supreme Court observed that “as a consequence of the pulling off of the film from the theatres where it was screened on 16 February 2019, the petitioners have suffered a violation of their fundamental right to free speech and expression and of their right to pursue a lawful business” and “this has been occasioned by the acts of commission and, in any event, of omission on the part of the state in failing to affirm, fulfill and respect the fundamental freedoms of the petitioners.” It was held that “the police are entrusted with enforcing law” and “in the present case, the West Bengal police have overreached their statutory powers and have become instruments in a concerted attempt to silence speech, suborn views critical of prevailing cultures and threaten law abiding citizens into submission.”

It was held that “in the space reserved for the free exercise of speech and expression, the state cannot look askance when organized interests threaten the existence of freedom.” The Supreme Court observed that “when organized interests threaten the properties of theatre owners or the viewing audience with reprisals, it is the plain duty of the state to ensure that speech is not silenced by the fear of the mob” and unless one reads “a positive obligation on the state to create and maintain conditions in which the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution can be exercised, there is a real danger that art and literature would become victims of intolerance.” In the present case, the Supreme Court was of the view “that there has been an unconstitutional attempt to invade the fundamental rights of the producers, the actors and the audience” and “worse still, by making an example out of them, there has been an attempt to silence criticism and critique.” The Court said that “this cannot be countenanced in a free society” and “freedom is not a supplicant to power.”

Accordingly, the Supreme Court issued “a Mandamus restraining the State from taking recourse to any form of extra constitutional means to prevent the lawful screening of the feature film Bhobishyoter Bhoot.” The State was directed to “specifically ensure that the properties of the theatre owners who exhibit the film are duly protected as are the viewers against attempts on their safety.” 


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