'An Insignificant Man' row: SC tells courts to be extremely slow in curbing artistic freedom

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Screengrab from trailer of An Insignificant Man
Screengrab from trailer of An Insignificant Man

New Delhi : Filmmakers and writers should be allowed to enjoy freedom of speech and expression and curbs can't be put on this, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, rejecting a plea against the release of a documentary on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The apex court said that freedom of speech and expression was "sacrosanct". 

The documentary, "An Insignificant Man", based on activist-turned-politician Kejriwal's life, will be screened in cinemas across India on Friday as scheduled.

The Supreme Court refused to entertain the plea to delete the portion showing petitioner Nachiketa Walhekar throwing ink on Kejriwal.

Walhekar said the 2013 ink throwing incident was shown in a promotional trailer.

Rejecting the request that the documentary not be released, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: "Courts should be extremely slow in passing any kind of restraint order in such a situation as there can't be curbs on the freedom of speech and expression."

Speaking for the bench, Chief Justice Misra said: "The courts ... should allow the respect that a creative man enjoys in writing a drama, play, playlet, book on philosophy, or any kind of thought that is expressed on the celluloid or theatre.

"It is worthy to mention that the freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with," the court said, emphasising on the creative instincts of an artiste or author.

The court said all creative people have the right to enjoy their works in production of films and dramas.

"Be it noted, a film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artiste has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind," the court said.

Addressing apprehensions expressed by petitioner's lawyer Pushkar Sharma, the court said: "Needless to emphasise that his apprehensions that this documentary will be used as evidence during his trial is not to be commented upon as that would be for the trial court to adjudge under the Evidence Act.

"... we are sure the trial court should exercise its jurisdiction in accordance with law."