The Madras High Court has declined to entertain a Tamil film producer's plea challenging the censor board's order for cuts and change of title and names of two main characters, which bore a resemblance to names of two MPs from Tamil Nadu, in his yet-to-be-released movie. Directing petitioner Vaarahi to approach the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FACT) within two weeks, Justice M Subramaniam held that bypassing the tribunal in a routine manner was impermissible and the statutory body created under the Cinematograph Act must be respected by constitutional courts.
Vaarahi, who has produced the film Siva Manasula Pushpa, moved the court challenging the order of the Central Board of Film Certification directing 15 cuts and change of the names of two main characters in the film and also the title for grant of certification.
The judge said the tribunal shall adjudicate the plea on merits and in accordance with law by affording an opportunity to the petitioner and dispose it within four weeks.
He concurred with the submissions of the CBFC counsel that the petitioner had not exhausted all legal remedies available to him and instead prematurely filed the writ petition.
"This court cannot adjudicate such complex facts under Article 226 of the Constitution. The disputed facts and circumstances of the case with reference to the story of the feature film is to be adjudicated only before the competent authorities," he said in his order recently.
All authorities and tribunals constituted under the statute must be allowed to exercise their power in accordance with the provisions of law by scrutinising the documents and by providing an opportunity to the parties concerned, he added.
In its counter, the CBFC had contended that both the Examining Committee and the Revising Committee had asked the producer to replace the names of the characters Siva and Pushpa as these names were used by the producer "with ulterior motives and to gain publicity from the current happenings."
As per the guidelines under the Cinematograph Act, visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or contempt of court cannot be permitted in films.
The committees were also of the opinion that the content and treatment of the film may make the viewers correlate recent happenings, the CBFC said, apparently referring to a controversy surrounding expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa and DMK MP Tiruchi Siva in 2016.
Pushpa had claimed she slapped Siva as he allegedly made offensive remarks against then chief minister Jayalalithaa in August 2016.
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