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Supreme Court Dismisses Petition Against Release of ‘Hamare Baarah’

In New Delhi, the Supreme Court on Friday denied a writ petition that sought to revoke the certification granted by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to the Annu Kapoor-starrer film ‘Hamare Baarah,’ directed by Kamal Chandra. The writ petition was filed directly before the apex court, bypassing the High Courts. A vacation bench, led by Justice Vikram Nath and accompanied by Justice S.V.N. Bhatti, expressed its reluctance to scrutinize the petition’s merits at this juncture.

“You should challenge the Bombay High Court order,” the bench advised the petitioner’s counsel. “The movie was screened, and the judges of the Bombay High Court have seen it. They directed expunging a few scenes, shots, and dialogues. If you seek leave and file an appeal, it would be more appropriate for this court to examine the matter.”

Recognizing the bench’s disinclination, the petitioner’s counsel requested to withdraw the writ petition. Consequently, the Supreme Court dismissed the plea as withdrawn but granted the petitioner liberty to file a special leave petition against the Bombay High Court order, which had permitted the release of ‘Hamare Baarah’ on June 21.

The Bombay High Court had earlier allowed the film’s release after ordering certain modifications to its content, deemed objectionable. Directed by Kamal Chandra, ‘Hamare Baarah’ features a cast including Ashwini Kalsekar, Rahul Bagga, Manoj Joshi, Aditi Bhatpahri, Paritosh Tiwari, Parth Samthaan, and Shaan Saxena.

The petition challenging the film’s CBFC certification, lodged under Article 32 of the Constitution, asserted that the portrayal of Muslim women in the film was deeply problematic. It alleged that the film depicted Muslim women as having no independent rights and implied that the Muslim community was responsible for India’s growing population.

“The director and producers of the film have targeted a particular community,” the petition stated. “They have portrayed the status of Muslim women as slaves and chattels, exploited by male members.

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. Verse 223 of the Surah Baqarah Chapter 2 of the Holy Quran has been misinterpreted and wrongly projected as advocating for the mistreatment and exploitation of Muslim females.” This plea was filed through advocate Syed Mehdi Imam.

The film’s trailer sparked objections from a segment of Muslim intellectuals, who argued that it grossly misinterpreted Islamic principles and aimed to malign Islam and the Muslim community. These intellectuals voiced their concerns that the film was designed to instigate communal discord by painting a misguided picture of Muslim women’s status in society.

As the legal battle unfolded, the Bombay High Court addressed these grievances by modifying some portions of the film. This intervention was intended to mitigate the community’s concerns without entirely forestalling the film’s release.

Justice Nath’s vacation bench at the Supreme Court emphasized procedural correctness in handling such cases. By directing the petitioner to challenge the Bombay High Court’s order, the bench underlined the importance of following appropriate judicial channels. The court suggested that examining these matters directly at the apex level without prior scrutiny by lower courts could disrupt judicial protocols.

Moreover, ‘Hamare Baarah’ had already passed through CBFC’s stringent certification process, and the adjustments recommended by the Bombay High Court further affirmed the regulatory mechanisms in place. These included expunging certain scenes, shots, and dialogues that were identified as potentially harmful or misleading.

Advocates for the film argued that its artistic expression should be preserved within the limits defined by Indian law, while opponents raised broader social and community-impacting concerns. This dichotomy encapsulated the complexity of balancing freedom of expression with societal harmony.

The Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the writ petition while providing an avenue for further legal recourse illustrated the judiciary’s balanced approach. It sought to respect both the procedural framework and the sensitivities surrounding the content in question.

As ‘Hamare Baarah’ approached its release, this case underscored the enduring dialogues between filmmakers, regulatory bodies, and the judiciary, navigating the fine line between creative liberty and cultural responsibility. The film’s reception would likely continue to be a subject of scrutiny and debate within India’s diverse and vibrant democratic setup.