Supreme Court okays Udta Punjab release

New Delhi, June 16: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to interfere with a Bombay High Court order allowing the release of Bollywood film Udta Punjab, set to hit the screens on Friday. The apex court’s vacation bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice L. geswara Rao said: “If there is no prima facie case, how can we interfere? We are not going into the merits of the matter in the absence of the high court judgement.” But the court permitted the Punjab-based NGO Human Rights Awareness Association (HRAA), which wanted to block the movie’s release, to approach the apex court at a later stage.

The high court on June 13 allowed the release of Udta Punjab, which had problems with the censors, with one cut and three disclaimers. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had earlier ordered 89 cuts. This number was scaled down later. On Thursday, the bench asked the petitioner how it was affected by the Bombay High Court order telling the censors to give ‘A’ certificate to the film when the CBFC and the Punjab government had not challenged it.

Justice Goel referred to the expletives used in the film, telling senior counsel Meekshi Arora: “The language used is very. very obscene. Is it necessary to use this language? Can you review it on your own? At time the usage (of expletives) in certain situations becomes necessary, it is not it is always irrelevant.” Asked Justice geswara Rao: “These expletives might be relevant. We do not know. We have not seen the film.” Defending the expletives, Arora, appearing for co-producer Phantom Films, admitted there was an “element of exaggeration in the film” as it was a “part of building the core story”. But she said the film was based on ground realities. Arora said even in Delhi people used expletives in “their normal speech”. But Justice Goel, who has had experience of addicts when he was engaged in legal aid, had another view. He said: “Drug addicts never uses such language. Once they get addicted to drugs, they can’t live without them. When an addict doesn’t get drugs, he becomes restless, there are withdrawal symptoms, he become desperate, he may steal but he will not extort. He may do things stealthily.”

Earlier, senior counsel Subramonium Prasad, representing the NGO, said the film “portrays the youth of Punjab in a bad way” and this would affect investment in the state. Prasad said the Bombay High Court should not have okayed the film merely by going through its script. Arora clarified that the producers approached the high court only after they were told that the Chairman of the Film Certification Appellate Tribul was not available until June 16.

On June 13, the high court, while setting aside the cuts suggested by CBFC, cleared the film for release with one cut — that of the hero Shahid Kapoor uriting in public. It also asked the producers to carry three disclaimers: “We do not promote the use of drugs”, “We do not promote the use of cuss words” and “We are not attacking any particular state”. Along with Shahid Kapoor, the film features Karee Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh and Alia Bhatt in the lead roles. (IANS)