Madras High Court Upholds Freedom of Expression, Dismisses Plea Against ‘Mersal’

A still from the film Mersal.

A still from the film Mersal.

Chennai: The Madras high court today (October 27) dismissed a petition seeking to revoke the censor certificate issued to Vijay-starrer Mersal over certain controversial dialogues relating to GST, holding that people’s right to freedom of expression applies to films also.

The petitioner in his PIL had contended that the movie contained scenes and dialogues which were against the interests of the country’s sovereignty and integrity and the security of the state.

“This is a democracy and people have their right to freedom of expression, and this applies to films as well,” a division bench comprising Justices M.M. Sundresh and M. Sundar observed dismissing the plea by advocate A. Ashvathaman.

“Even today the media has reported that the leader of opposition in the state has criticised demonetisation, can the court pass a gag order against him from making such statements,” the bench said.

The petition contended there was apparent false information about GST and ‘Digital India’ scheme, which would encourage people to indulge in tax evasion.

Wondering how the censor board had issued certification for the above movie, the petitioner had said “the film was full of wrong propaganda about India and fake dialogues and scenes which obviously lead to misconception about the new taxation system (GST).”

Coming down on the petitioner, the bench said, “if you were really concerned about public and the society you should have started campaigns against various social evils like untouchability and safety of women. But you choose to target a particular movie.”

Noting that the PIL had, in fact, helped the film get more publicity, the court dismissed the plea as devoid of merit.

The movie released on October 18, Diwali day, and had kicked up a row with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit taking exception to references on GST and ‘Digital India’.

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  • Justices M.M. Sundresh and M. Sundar of the Madras High Court deserve our gratitude for letting freedom of expression have a free run, as it should, in a democracy. Very appropriately they ticked off the petitioner that rather than campaigning against social evils such as untouchability and safety of women, he has targeted a movie. This is what we want the Courts to do: Uphold freedom of expression and the rule of law. They could even do some more by imposing penalty on such petitioners for wasting precious Court time/energy on frivolous issues that do not merit attention and need to be dealt with the contempt they deserve.