Directorate General of Doordarshan vs Anand Patwardhan Case

Directorate General of Doordarshan vs Anand Patwardhan - Supreme Court Case Summary of Leading Case - 

On 25th August, 2006, a two Judge Bench in Director General, Directorate General of Doordarshan & Ors. vs Anand Patwardhan & Anr. [Civil Appeal No.613 of 2005] held it improper on behalf of the Doordarshan “to deny telecast” of the award winning documentary made by Respondent merely on the ground that part II of the said documentary was certified as “A” by the Censor Board. “A documentary cannot be denied exhibition on Doordarshan simply on account of it’s “A” certification or “UA” certification”, the Bench said. It said that “the correct approach to be taken is to look at the documentary film as a whole and not in bits, as any message that is purported to be conveyed by way of a film cannot be conveyed just by watching certain bits of the film”. Consequently the Bench held that the documentary film made by Respondent “if judged in its entirety has a theme and message to convey” and the view taken by the Doordarshan “that the film is not suitable for telecast is erroneous.” It held that the Respondent had “a right to convey his perception on the oppression of women, flawed understanding of manhood and evils of communal violence through the documentary film produced by him.”

The Bench held that “the freedom of expression, which is legitimate and constitutionally protected, cannot be held to ransom on a mere fall of a hat” and that “Doordarshan being a State controlled agency funded by public funds could not have denied access to screen the Respondent’s documentary except on specified valid grounds.”

Observing that Doordarshan had been “finding flimsy excuses time and again” in “not telecasting the documentary film in question every time the film was sought to be aired either at the instance of the Respondent or due to the orders of the Court”, the Bench was of the view that this was “highly irrational” and “blatant violation of the right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Bench held that Doordarshan was being “dictated by rules of malafides and arbitrariness in taking decisions with regard to the telecast of the Respondent’s film” and consequently directed the Doordarshan “to exhibit the entire documentary film of the Respondent within 8 weeks.”

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