The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the West Bengal government to pay compensation of Rs 20 lakh to Kalyanmoy Billy Chatterjee, producer of the film Bhobishyoter Bhoot, for imposing a “virtual ban” on the screening of the movie. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Mamata Banerjee-led government, Live Law reported.
“Free speech cannot be gagged for fear of the mob,” the court said. It expressed concern over “growing intolerance” in society against artistic freedom.
The movie, a satire on politics and politicians in West Bengal, had disappeared from theatres a day after it released on February 15. On March 15, the court had directed the state government to ensure that the movie is screened without obstruction. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta had said that “once the Central Board of Film Certification has certified a film, no one can come in the way of its public exhibition”.
On March 26, the court asked Atri Bhattacharya, the principal secretary (home) for West Bengal, as well as Director General Of Police Virendra to immediately issue communications to all threatres where the movie was being screened to intimate them that there is no ban on it.
Petitioners Indibily Creative Private Limited have alleged that the state was misusing police power and acting like a “super censor” to thwart the screening of the film directed by Anik Datta.
The film criticises political parties, including Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India.