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K. A. Abbas vs The Union Of India & Anr on 24 September, 1970
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R.K. Garg, D. P. Singh, S. C. Agrawala, R. K. Jain, V. J. Francis and S. Chakravarti, for the petitioner. Niren De, Attorney-General, Jagadish Swarup, Solicitor- General, J. M. Mukhi, R. N. Sachthey and B. D. Sharma, for the respondents.

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Hidayatulla, C.J. This petition seeks a declaration against the Union of India and the Chairman Central Board of Film Censors, that the provisions of Part 11 of the Cinematograph Act 1952 together with the rules prescribed by the Central Government, February 6, 1960, in the purported exercise of its powers under S. 5-B of the Act are unconstitutional and void. As a consequence the petitioner asks for a writ of mandamus Or any other appropriate writ, direction or order quashing the direction contained in a letter (Annexure X) dated July 3, 1969 for deletion of certain shots from a documentary film entitled 'A Tale of Four Cities' produced by him for unrestricted public exhibition.

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The petitioner is a journalist, playwright and writer of short stories. He is also a producer and director of cinematograph films. He was a member of the Enquiry Committee on Film Censorship (1968) and is a member of the Children's Film Committee. He has produced and/or directed many films some of which have been well-received here and abroad and even won awards and prizes.

The petitioner produced in 1968 a documentary film in 2 reels (running time 16 minutes) called a Tale of Four Cities. In this film he purported to contrast the luxurious life of the rich in the four cities of calcutta Bombay, Madras and Delhi, with the squalor and poverty of the poor, particularly those whose hands and labour help to build beautiful cities, factories and other industrial complexes. The film is in black and white and is silent except for a song which the labourers sing while doing work and some background music and sounds for stage effect. The film, in motion sequences or still shots, shows contrasting scenes of palatial buildings, hotels and factories--evidence of the prosperity of a few, and shanties, huts and slums--evidence of poverty of the masses. These scenes alternate and in between are other scenes showing sweating labourers working to build the former and those showing the squalid private life of these labourers. Some shots mix people riding in lush motor cars with rickshaw and handcart pullers of Calcutta and Madras. In one scene a fat and prosperous customer is shown riding a rickshaw which a decrepit man pulls, sweating and panting hard. In a contrasting, scene the same rickshaw puller is shown sitting in the rickshaw, pulled by his former customer. This scene is the epitomisation of the theme of the film and on view are the statutes of the leaders of Indian Freedom Movement looking impotently from their high pedestals in front of palatial buildings, on the poverty of the masses. On the bouleverds the rich drive past in limousines while the poor pull rickshaws or handcarts or stumble along. There is included also a scanning shot of a very short duration, much blurred by the movement of the photographer's camera, in which the red light district of Bombay is shown with the inmates of the brothels waiting at the doors or windows. Some of them wear abbreviated skirts showing bare legs up to the knees and sometimes a short way above them. This scene was perhaps shot from a moving car because the picture is unsteady on the screen and under exposed. Sometimes the inmates, becoming aware of the photographer, quickly withdraw themselves. The whole scene barely lasts a minute. Then we see one of the inmates shutting a window and afterwards we see the hands of a woman holding some currency notes and a male hand plucking away most of them leaving only a very few in the hands of the female. The two actors are not shown.