SC seeks govt response in film ban case
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court sought on Wednesday the government’s comprehensive response regarding objectionable portions of the controversial film Maalik whose screening was banned across the country for showing the assassination of a government official by his personal security guard.
A two-judge bench consisting of Justices Umar Atta Bandial and Qazi Faez Isa had taken up a federal government appeal against the Sindh High Court’s Sept 9 order quashing the government’s notification de-certifying the censor certificate under Section 9 of the Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979.
Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti informed the court that the screening of Ashir Azeem’s movie had been banned after receiving complaints from the general public as well as from civil society.
But the court observed that the film should be banned on solid reasons rather than on letters or complaints of hurting public sentiments and directed the law officer to furnish a compact disc (CD) containing objectionable portions of the movie at the next hearing on Friday.
In its appeal, the government through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had requested the Supreme Court to set aside the high court’s order because it failed to appreciate rather misread the material on record.
The government argued that the producer of the film Maalik was a serving grade-19 civil servant of the Pakistan Customs Service, but he concealed this fact while applying for the censorship certificate which he received on April 6, though the film was released for countrywide exhibition on April 8.
After the release of the film, the appeal said, the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) had started receiving a plethora of public complaints from across the country. The complainants made phone calls, sent letters and personally visited the CBFC office to express their extreme reaction to the movie.
After examining the complaints, the CBFC de-certified the film through a notification on April 27. However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government allowed the screening of the movie in the province. The producer of the film then approached the SHC which quashed the notification.
The government’s appeal argued that the high court had declared the notification as null and void without specifying the areas/provinces where the film’s exhibition was restored.
It said the SHC had issued the verdict without realising the fact that a similar petition was pending in the Lahore High Court which had reserved its ruling on the matter.
The appeal said the CBFC enjoyed jurisdictional control in all federal administrative areas, including cantonments, after the passage of the 18th constitutional amendment.
Section 9 of the Motion Pictures Ordinance empowers the federal government to de-certify a film in any part of the country, especially when the KP and Balochistan governments have not completed their legislative work after the 18th amendment, though the Punjab and Sindh have framed their respective censorship laws.
As a result, the appeal said, censorship matters relating to these provinces were still being looked after by the CBFC, adding that Article 143 of the Constitution had overriding effect and if any provision of an act of a provincial assembly was repugnant to any provision of an act of parliament, the act of parliament would always prevail.