SHC lifts federal govt ban on Maalik
KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday lifted a ban on the screening of the feature film Maalik four months after it was imposed by the federal government.
The ban was imposed after the information ministry’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) declared the film “uncertified” under the rules of the 1979 Motion Pictures Ordinance as a certain segment of society thought the movie was “biased against communities” and defamed a chief minister.
The SHC bench, headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, announced the verdict, which was reserved in June on an appeal filed by the director of the film, Ashir Azeem, against the decision of the CBFC.
After hearing arguments and testimonies, the court observed that the authority concerned had imposed a ban on the exhibition of the movie without examining and verifying the complaints.
The court maintained that the act was a violation of the rules while declaring the notification for banning Maalik as null and void.
The film was banned in April just days after it was released to cinema houses amid much media fanfare.
First, it was banned by the Sindh government which issued a notification through the provincial culture ministry to ban the movie in the province for being “biased against communities” and defaming the chief minister.
The issue was resolved within a day when provincial authorities agreed to revoke the orders on assurance of the film-makers to remove all objectionable material from the movie. Then the federal government decided to ban the screening of the film across the country.
The film’s director, Mr Azeem, rose to fame in the mid-1990s for writing and acting in the PTV blockbuster drama Dhuwan. In his petition to the SHC, Mr Azeem submitted that he had obtained a clearance certificate from the CBFC before releasing the film, but despite all that it was banned by the authorities.
The CBFC in its reply to the court came up with the argument that it had received many complaints from different people that the film was against the spirit of the National Action Plan as it projected the heroic death of an Afghan militant.
It maintained that the complainants suggested that politicians had been portrayed as corrupt, immoral and dishonest people in the movie.
The court heard both sides before announcing the verdict in favour of the film-makers which gave Mr Azeem hope that his petition “was a test case for the country’s film industry and the court verdict had given a new lease of life to everyone in the business”.
“I was very confident and hopeful when I moved the court,” said the film’s director. “We went through every single process to release our film and one fine morning we came to know that the institution which had issued us a certificate had banned our film.”
“We stand vindicated. The court has clearly declared that whatever the government had done was unjustified,” he said. “We will try to bring this film back to the cinemas at the earliest but there are several practical considerations, as several films are already booked for screenings. We may screen this film in theatres from Friday.”