Author: Sakshi Yadav, Amity University Lucknow

Edited By: Gyanu Patel, Student at Amity University, Lucknow Campus


The Supreme Court of India declared an unofficial ban imposed by the West Bengal Government on a satirical film to be unconstitutional. They were producers of a Bengali film, Bhobishyoter Bhoot. The film was a satire on the political conditions in contemporary India, about Glass who san to God’s silence through arsenic the margins and the obsolete people. The film was scheduled to ease in Kolkata and some districts of West Bengal on 15th February and received the certificate for public exhibition on 10 November 2015.[1]

However, a few days preceding the release, Petitioner No. 1 and 2 (producer) received a plane call from the Kolkata police on 11 February 2019 and after that, a letter, asking for an advance screening of the film for senior officials.

The communication declared that the police had received some intelligence reports that the first hand could cause “political law and order issues.”

Keywords: Film, court, preceding, Article, law.



       i)            Judgement Cause Title / Case Name Indibility Creative Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. v. Govt. of West Bengal & Ors.
     ii)            Case Number 306/2019
   iii)            Judgement Date 11/04/2019
    iv)            Court Supreme Court
      v)            Constitution of Bench Hemant Gupta , Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud)
    vi)            Author Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud
  vii)            Citation 2019 SSC Online SC 520
viii)            Legal Provisions Involved   Article 19


They contradicted that the extra-constitutional method adopted by the state and its agencies blatantly violates the fundamental sights of the petitioners under Article 19 (1)(a), 19 (1)(g) and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.


  • The film in question was a satirical take on the current political landscape in India. It revolves around Glass, a character who, confronted with the silence of the divine, resorts to toxic means, navigating through societal fringes and interacting with marginalized individuals. The film was originally set for release in Kolkata and various districts of West Bengal on 15th February. It obtained certification for public exhibition on 10th November 2015.
  • However, just days before its release, Petitioner No. 2, the producer, received a call from the Kolkata police on 11th February 2019, followed by a letter requesting an advanced screening of the film for senior officials. The communication specified that the police had received intelligence suggesting that the film had the potential to lead to “political law and order issues.”
  • In response, the Petitioner, through a letter dated 12th February 2019, argued that the film had already been duly certified and that, according to established law, no other authority could obstruct the screening of the film once approved by the Central Board of Film Certification.
  • Despite the film’s release on 15th February 2019, it was abruptly pulled from theatres on 16th February 2019 by numerous exhibitors, with ticket refunds issued. Apparently, this action was taken based on directives from “higher authorities.”Subsequently, the Petitioners filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court, alleging rights violations.
  • When the petition was filed, only two exhibitors had presented the film. One exhibitor eventually informed the producers that they were “directed by the authorities to cease the screening of the film.” As a result, the Petitioners argued that the State had attempted to ban the film through indirect means, circumventing the rule of law.


  1. Whether the attempt by the functionaries of the state to interfere with the exhalation of the film is destructive of the freedom of speech and expression?
  2. Whether CBFC is an expert body entrusted with the statutory power under the Cinematograph Act to determine whether a film should be certified for public viewing and in the sole repository of that prowess?


The Petitioners therefore filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court alleging violation of the nights. Only two exhibitors had displayed their film when the petitioners filed a writ. One exhibitor eventually informed the producers that they were “directed by the infirmities to lamination arsenal” of the film “keeping in mind the interest of the guest”. The Petitioners, therefore, contended that the authority of the law State had d sought to ban the film through indirect means and without the rule of law.


“Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, senior counsel for the respondents, informed the Court on 25 March 2019.”

The Additional Director General and Inspector General of Police in West Bengal sent letters to various law enforcement authorities, including District Superintendents of Police, about a court order for compliance[2]. The State of West Bengal confirmed that the film had not been banned, and it was running in theatres outside Kolkata. The court noted that the Joint Commissioner of Police had acted beyond his authority by directing the film’s producer to arrange a private screening for senior officials. The court emphasized that the State of West Bengal must protect the fundamental right to free speech and expression, ensuring viewers can watch the film without unconstitutional restrictions.

The court directed the police to withdraw a communication to the film producer and ordered the state authorities to inform all theatres that there was no ban on the film. The court required compliance affidavits from the authorities to ensure their accountability.

The court then assessed the grievance related to the release of the film “Bhobishyoter Bhoot” in theatres in West Bengal, following concerns raised by the police[3]. The text then discusses the social purpose of art, quoting Chinua Achebe and Albert Camus to illustrate the connection between art, society, and freedom.


  1. Article 19 [4] of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.
  2. Article 21[5] of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the Right to Life and Personal Liberty.



The Court’s ruling stated that there was a deliberate and coordinated effort to violate the fundamental rights of the producers, actors, and audience. Additionally, the Court noted that this attempt was aimed at suppressing criticism and critique. Considering the State’s historical actions and inactions regarding freedom of speech and expression, the Court concluded that the Petitioners’ rights under Article 19(1)(s) [6]of the Constitution had been violated. The Court also emphasized the need for a public law remedy to ensure proper compensation for this violation of fundamental rights. As a result, the Respondents were instructed to pay Rs. 20 lakhs in compensation, along with Rs. 1 lakh in legal costs.


The petitioners argued that the State had misused its police powers to wrongfully block the screening of the film. Moreover, the Court took into account the State’s failure to fulfil its obligations in safeguarding freedom of speech and expression. Consequently, it was determined that the State had infringed upon the petitioners’ right to freedom of expression as outlined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. It was also deemed essential to address the issue of compensation as a remedy in public law for the violation of this fundamental right. In a landmark ruling concerning film censorship cases, the Court granted Rs. 20 lakhs as compensation and an additional Rs. 1 lakh to cover legal costs.


Important Cases Referred

  • Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram to establish that if the film is “If the film is known non-objectionable[7] and cannot be constitutionally restricted under Article 19 (2) freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration of processing of threat of violence.”
  • It Further explained that once the film board or tribunal had cleared a film, the Central government did not have the power to REVIEW decisions based on concerns about potential PUBLIC RESENTMENT  towards the film and that it was the Government’s responsibility to ensure law and order is maintained.
  • Considering the social contest, the Court expressed a concern that “contemporary events reveal that there is a growing intolerance which is unaccepting of the rights of others in society to freely espouse their views and to portray them celluloid media” print, in the theatre.