The Delhi High Court on Monday allowed the release of ‘The Textures of Loss’, a documentary film on Kashmir by award-winning director Pankaj Butalia. The verdict came as Pankaj had approached the HC after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) suggested some major cuts for the release of the 61-minute documentary. The Court, passing out the judgement, noted that the “right to censor films, shown in whatever form, constitutes a prior restraint,” and should “necessarily be reasonable”.
‘The Textures of Loss’, Butalia’s second work in his trilogy of documentaries on conflict areas in India, features how ordinary people are affected by the decades-long bloody violence in Kashmir.
The CBFC and the FCAT had suggested that some angry remarks — made by parents of children killed during the 2010 stone-pelting clashes in Srinagar — should be censored. The director was also asked to delete the words “disproportionate violence” from a description of the clashes, and to show a disclaimer stating “all views in the film are personal” at the beginning of the film.
But the HC, giving a go-ahead to the filmmaker to screen the documentary with a ‘U’ certificate, and without any disclaimers, said “Unanimity of thought and views is not the test to be employed by censuring authorities in such situations … The response cannot be to ban, mutilate or destroy the work of another, with whom one stridently disagrees.”
During arguments in the case, the counsel for the CBFC claimed that some remarks, particularly one made by the father of a child killed in police firing, were “seditious” and “would affect the security and sovereignty of the country.” But Justice Rajiv Shakdher, rejecting the argument, said “In my opinion, the FCAT has completely misguided itself by not appreciating the context in which the statement has been made. As rightly contended by the petitioner, the father, who was grief-stricken on account of the death of his eight-year-old son, was venting his anger”. The court also noted that the CBFC had not followed proper procedure while passing the order in 2013.
But the HC rejected the filmmaker’s plea to set aside the censorship guidelines set by the CBFC.