"A film (Delhi 6) that carries a message against a social evil cannot be made impermissible on the ground that it depicts the social evil. It has to be borne in mind that a film that illustrate consequences of social evil, must necessarily show that evil," Justice Manmohan said.
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"Consequently, the present petition is allowed and the FIR dated March 7, 2009 registered with Police Station Mandir Marg, under ... the Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act... read with Section 7(d) of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 is quashed," the court said.
The FIR was lodged by Jai Kishan, an MLA from Sultanpuri in North West Delhi against Mehra alleging that film, starring Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor as lead actors, had depicted a girl of Valmiki community in "derogatory" manner in the movie.
The court, in its 37-page verdict, said, "In fact, the certificate issued by CBFC furnishes a complete legal justification to the petitioner for public exhibition of the film and exonerates them from offences under IPC, the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as well as The Protection of Civil Rights Act."
Justice Manmohan, who also watched the movie during the hearing, said film Delhi-6 "being a piece of art" was entitled to protection under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution (which deals with freedom of speech and expression).
"The present film seen in its entirety, generates empathy for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes...," he said.
The court said, "The freedom of expression is of inestimable value in a democratic society based on the rule of law."
"While it is true that many competing values like right to reputation, national integrity, sovereignty, decency and morality are equally important but as Charles Bradlaugh, famously observed: Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people and entombs the hopes of the race," it added.
It said the test to determine whether a movie "falls foul of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution" is to view the film in its entirety and not to examine a few expressions and scenes of the film in isolation.
The impugned FIR was based on a few expressions and scenes in the film taken in isolation, it said.
"The present film seen in its entirety, generates empathy for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. No intention to insult the members of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes community can be attributed to the petitioners in the present case. The present film in no manner supports the practise of untouchability in any manner...," it said.
No film that "extols the social evil or encourages it" is permissible, but a film that carries a message that the social evil is evil cannot be made impermissible on the ground that it depicts the social evil, it said.
It was alleged in the complaint that the film had a role of a lady sweeper who was being insulted and that was derogatory to the community.