Apex court slaps a fine of
Rs 20 lakh on
govt for preventing
the screening of
New Delhi: The purpose of art is to “question and provoke’’ but there is a growing intolerance in society and organised groups pose a serious danger to the right to free speech and expression, the Supreme Court said Thursday.
The observation was made in a judgment in which the apex court imposed Rs 20 lakh fine on the Mamata Banerjee government over not allowing the screening of satirical film Bhobishyoter Bhoot in West Bengal.
There was clear abuse of public power by the authorities, it said, underlining that State does not “entrust freedoms” to the people but they inseparable from “our existence”.
“Contemporary events reveal that there is a growing intolerance: intolerance which is unaccepting of the rights of others in society to freely espouse their views and to portray them in print, in the theatre or in the celluloid media. Organised groups and interests pose a serious danger to the existence of the right to free speech and expression,” said a bench, comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta.
“If the right of the playwright, artiste, musician or actor were to be subjected to popular notions of what is or is not acceptable, the right itself and its guarantee under the Constitution would be rendered illusory.
“The true purpose of art, as manifest in its myriad forms, is to question and provoke,” it added.
The top court said art in an elemental sense reflects a human urge to question the assumptions on which societal values may be founded and in questioning prevailing social values and popular cultures, every art form seeks to espouse a vision.
“Underlying the vision of the artist is a desire to find a new meaning for existence. The artist, in an effort to do so, is entitled to the fullest liberty and freedom to critique and criticise. Satire and irony are willing allies of the quest to entertain while at the same time to lead to self-reflection.
“We find in the foibles of others an image of our own lives. Our experiences provide meaning to our existence. Art is as much for the mainstream as it is for the margins. The Constitution protects the ability of every individual citizen to believe as much as to communicate, to conceptualize as much as to share,’ the bench said.