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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Judiciary washes its hands off the Gunjan Saxena row

The Delhi High Court (HC) has conveniently washed its hands off the Gunjan Saxena row by asking the government and Dharma Productions to solve the issue among themselves and refused to stay the film’s theatrical release pointing out that it was already available on the OTT platform.

The single-judge bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher while presiding over the case on Thursday suggested that the counsels of both parties (IAF and Dharma Productions) must hold an across-the-table talk to sort issues with regard to the film’s content.

The judge in his reply to the Defence Ministry’s (MoD) petition stated: “who will watch the film in theatres during the pandemic and the ones who wanted to, have already seen it on OTT platform”. The MoD had sought a permanent injunction to restrain the defendants from broadcasting the film on any platform whatsoever.

Refuting the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain’s submission where he had pulled up Dharma Productions for showing IAF (Indian Air Force) in a bad light saying they had no right to do so, the judge said: “in an inspirational work of art, certain parts are shown in a way that does not perfectly align with what actually transpired in reality”.

We may contrast the court’s “hands-off” approach in cases where nationalism and Hindu Dharma are concerned with immediate redressal in cases of Christian or Muslim sentiments. Readers may recall how the courts were prompt in bringing a stay on Sudarshan TV’s show Bindass Bol and even criticized the channel for depicting UPSC Jihad.

The apex court which had concerns about how “one community” was depicted in Bindass Bol doesn’t seem to have any such concerns for the wrong depiction of the country’s defense forces. Another example of the judiciary’s selectiveness is its ruling in the case of the Hindi movie Loveratri which was released after renaming it as Loveyatri.

The apex court overruled the judgment of a Bihar court asking for action to be initiated against producer Salman Khan and the actors of the movie saying no coercive action should be taken against Khan in any part of the country. The matter had reached the courts for hurting Hindu sentiments by distorting the Hindu festival Navratri and presenting it in a bad light.

The OTT platform is littered with anti-Hindu content, be it Tamil or Hindi. Hindu bashing is a favorite theme of most of the producers, and leading them are Ekta Kapoor and Karan Johar. Ekta Kapoor is a repeat offender who has not even spared national icons like Ahilyadevi Holkar in her shows.

However, we never see the courts taking action in such cases, and more often than not freedom of speech and expression is the excuse to allow anti-Hindu content to be aired. The judiciary is supposed to be a neutral body and all citizens are to be treated equally by it.

Courts cannot take the easy way out in nationalistic and Hindu related cases while imposing a clampdown where the so-called minority communities are involved. The essential point to remember here is the neutrality and fairness of the courts which comes into question when their decisions are based not on the merits of the case but on which section of the society is the complainant.

As far as the Gunjan Saxena film controversy is concerned, asking the government and IAF to negotiate with Karan Johar and Dharma Productions is nothing but a travesty of justice. Freedom of expression and creative license cannot be used as an excuse to depict the armed forces in a manner that is blatantly false and completely divorced from reality.

(Featured Image Source: India TV News)

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