India: Viacom 18 Media Private Limited & Ors. vs. Union Of India & Ors.

Last Updated: 25 January 2018
Article by Harshit Dave

"It should always be remembered that if intellectual prowess and natural or cultivated power of creation is interfered without the permissible facet of law, the concept of creativity paves the path of extinction; and when creativity dies, values of civilization corrode."


The cinema has always been a sphere of constant debate over the subject of freedom of speech and expression. In the recent years, the judiciary has witnessed various instances where the right to freedom of speech and expression of artists, filmmakers etc. was the subject of tussle. One such recent case is Viacom 18 Media Private Limited & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors.1. which has created a lot of uproar in various sections of the society due to the huge controversy being associated with it. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India once again faced the issue regarding Article 19(1) of the Constitution and the suspension of exhibition of a film under Section 6 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.


The brief facts of the case are that Viacom 18 Media Private Limited (hereinafter, the "Petitioner 1") filed a writ petition before the Hon'ble Supreme Court against the orders issued by 4 states, namely, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana for imposing a ban upon the exhibition of the cinematograph film titled as "Padmaavat" (earlier "Padmavati"). The four states had issued the orders to ban the exhibition of the film in the interest of the public and to maintain law and order in the state.The Petitioner 1 is the official distributor of the film whereas, Bhansali Productions Pvt. Ltd. (hereinafter, the "Petitioner 2") and Mr. (hereinafter, the "Petitioner 3") are Producer and Director of the film, respectively.

The series of controversies started when Petitioner 3 started the shooting of the film in Jaipur in January 2017. The sets of the film were vandalised and heavily damaged along with Peitioner 3 and the crew being assaulted by the members of KarniSena (A Rajput cast group). The members of KarniSena protested against the objectionable scenes being shown in the film and also accused the Petitioners of distorting the history of Rani Padmini.

The crew members of the film were assaulted at several other occasions and also received threats from the members of KarniSena. In December 2017, the Central Board of Film Certification (hereinafter, the "CBFC") reviewed the film with the help of examining committee and suggested five modifications to the film. Subsequently, the changes were made and CBFC granted a U/A certificate to the film and declared that the film is fit for public exhibition.

However, in January 2018, the protest by Karni Sena escalated and several states witnessed various incidents of vandalism and heavy damage to the public property by the members of KarniSena. As a result, the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh issued orders to ban the exhibition of the film in theatres, public etc. to maintain law and order. A PIL was also filed before the Hon'ble Supreme Court to quash the certificate granted by the CBFC to Padmavat.


The three-judge bench of the court headed by the Hon'ble Chief Justice, Mr. Dipak Misra ordered for the stay of notifications issued by the four states and also ordered to restrain other states from issuing notifications/orders which prohibited the exhibition of the film in any manner. The court also remarked that it was the obligation of the state to maintain the law and order.

The interim order of the Hon'ble court in the present case heavily relies upon the decision in Prakash Jha Productions & Anr. v. Union of India2 where the Hon'ble Supreme Court dealt with a similar issue of suspension of a film (Aarakshan) from exhibition in public in the state of Uttar Pradesh.The Hon'ble court stated that the suspension of exhibition of a film in accordance with Section 6 of The Cinematograph Act, 1952 (hereinafter, the "Act") cannot be ordered unless the film is publicly exhibited and there is likelihood of breach of peace. The court further stated that this is so because a thing can only be suspended if it is operational and not if it is yet to become operational. The Hon'ble court held the suspension to be set aside and the film to be publicly exhibited.

In the present case, the Hon'ble court emphasised upon the words "Suspension" and "being publicly exhibited" of Section 6 of the Act as interpreted in the case of Prakash Jha Productions3. The Hon'ble court stated that creative content is an essential aspect of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India and that the right is not an absolute right, thus, it is subjected to regulatory measures under Section 5B of the the Cinematograph Act, 1952 Act and to the guidelines issued by the Central Government.

The Hon'ble court held that once the board has granted certification to a film, the non-exhibition of the same by the States would be contrary to the provisions of the Act and also infringe the fundamental rights of the petitioners.

The Hon'ble court, while having due regard to the issue of right to freedom of speech and expression, placed reliance on its recent judgement in the case of NachiketaWalhekar v. Central Board of Film Certification & Anr.4 decided on 16.11.2017 regarding a writ of Mandamus filed before the Hon'ble court to pass an order for the stay of nationwide release of a film ("An Insignificant Man"). The Hon'ble court had dismissed the Writ petition and stated that a film is a creation of art and an artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited by law. The Hon'ble court held that

"Be it noted, a film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind. The human history records that there are many authors who express their thoughts according to the choice of their words, phrases, expressions and also create characters who may look absolutely different than an ordinary man would conceive of. A thought provoking film should never mean that it has to be didactic or in any way puritanical. It can be expressive and provoking the conscious or the sub-conscious thoughts of the viewer. If there has to be any limitation, that has to be as per the prescription in law."

In the concluding paragraphs of the interim order, the Hon'ble court while referring to the above-mentioned decisions emphasised that it is paramount obligation of the State of maintain the law and order wherever the film is being exhibited in public. The Hon'ble court protected the right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under the Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India.


The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has once again acted as a patron of right of expression of artists in the present case by staying the notifications/orders passed by the States. The interim order in the present case has set a milestone for creativity and intellectual talent. The legal position regarding the suspension of exhibition of a film was clear even before the present case due to the numerous precedents upon the same issue. However, in spite of such precedents and the legal position being clear, the film Padmaavat faced quite a lot of trouble due to the notifications/orders issued by the States. Furthermore, the Hon'ble Supreme court, in the present case, has reaffirmed the legal position regarding the staying of such notifications/orders thereby upholding the Rule of Law in such cases. The interim order in the present case is thus a boon for the artists and filmmakers as it supports idea of right to freedom of speech and expression.


1 Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).36/2018

2 (2011) 8 SCC 372

3 Ibid

4 W.P. (C) No. 1119 of 2017

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions