Constitution of India, 1950 – Article 32 – Cinematograph Act, 1952 – S. 7 – Penal Code, 1860 – Ss. 153A, 295, 295A, 499 & 500 – Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 – S. 4 – Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) – film titled “Padmavati” – Public Interest Litigation. 

Held:- This is a most unfortunate situation showing how public interest litigation can be abused. The hunger for publicity or some other hidden motive should not propel one to file such petitions. They sully the temple of justice and intend to create dents in justice dispensation system. That apart, a petition is not to be filed to abuse others.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

[Dipak Misra, CJI.] [A.M. Khanwilkar, J.] [Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J.]

November 28, 2017

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 191 OF 2017

MANOHAR LAL SHARMA … Petitioner

VERSUS

SANJAY LEELA BHANSALI & ORS. … Respondents

J U D G M E N T

Dipak Misra, CJI.

The instant writ petition has been preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution of India giving it the nomenclature of public interest litigation basically with twin prayers that a film titled “Padmavati” should not be exhibited in other countries without obtaining the requisite certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) under the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (for brevity, ‘the Act’) and the Rules and guidelines framed thereunder and further to issue a writ of mandamus to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), respondent No. 5 herein, to register an FIR against the respondent Nos. 1 and 2 and their team members for offence punishable under Section 7 of the Act read with Sections 153A, 295, 295A, 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 4 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and to investigate and prosecute them in accordance with law.

2. It needs to be stated at the outset that the reliefs sought are not only extremely ambitious but also the nature of pleadings in the petition have the effect of potentiality that can erode the fundamental conception of pleadings in a Court of Law. It needs to be stated that neither laxity nor lack of sobriety in pleadings is countenanced in law. The assertions in a petition cannot show carelessness throwing all sense of propriety to the winds. Rambling of irrelevant facts only indicates uncontrolled and imprecise thinking and exposes the inability of the counsel. On certain occasions, it reflects a maladroit design to state certain things which are meant to sensationalize the matter which has the roots in keen appetite for publicity. When these aspects are portrayed in a nonchalant manner in a petition, it is the duty of the Court to take strong exception to the same and deal it with iron hands.

3. We have heard Mr. Manohar Lal Sharma, petitioner-in-person, Mr. Harish N. Salve, learned senior counsel assisted by Mr. Mahesh Agarwal, learned counsel, appearing for the respondent no. 1, and Mr. Shyam Divan, learned senior counsel for the respondent no. 2. We have also taken assistance of Mr. Maninder Singh and Mr. P.S. Narasimha, learned Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India.

4. Having stated so, we may now turn to the controversy. When the matter was called, Mr. Salve, learned senior counsel, who has entered appearance for the respondent No. 1, drew our attention to the dates of events as contained in pages B to E of the petition. Be it noted, a similar matter was filed in a different manner by the same petitioner, forming the subject matter of Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 186/2017 wherein this Court has directed that such pleadings are unwarranted. Resultantly, in that case, a substantial portion of the pleadings was struck off. Despite this, the same have been reiterated in the present petition. Mr. Manohar Lal Sharma, petitioner-in-person, would submit that they are not a part of the pleadings. We are absolutely shocked by such an approach and submission. When a writ petition is filed and the dates of events are mentioned, they definitely constitute a part of the pleadings. It cannot be said that they do not form part of the pleadings. This contention is absolutely untenable. Therefore, keeping in view the nature of the pleadings, we strike off the narrations made in pages B to E (marked as ‘X’ in the paper book), and further direct that such pleadings shall not be included anywhere in future, and shall not be mentioned anywhere else.

5. On the last occasion, while dealing with the writ petition filed by the petitioner, we had clearly stated that when the grant of certificate is pending before the CBFC, any kind of comment or adjudication by this Court would be pre-judging the matter. We may fruitfully reproduce a passage from the order dated 20.11.2017 passed in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 186/2017:-

“In the course of hearing, we have been apprised that the film in question, i.e., ‘Padmavati’ has not yet received the Certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification. In view of the aforesaid, our interference in the writ petition will tantamount to pre-judging the matter which we are not inclined to do. The writ petition is accordingly disposed of.”