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Naik, specialist committee argue for Aarakshan release despite anti-reservation concerns

Reservation: protected under constitution
Reservation: protected under constitution

Naik Naik & Co represented the producers of the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Aarakshan (reservation) and successfully persuaded the Bombay High Court not to stay the release of the film, which has been attracting controversy for its purported anti-reservation message.

Naik Naik & Co partners Ameet Naik and Madhu Gadodia and associate Lavin Hirani with counsel Venkatesh Dhond represented the producers Prakash Jha and Prakash Jha Productions and argued against the Bombay High Court petition filed by Raigad-based advocates Gajanan Lasure and Aniket Deshkar. Counsel Sangharaj Rupwate, Milind Ingale and Santosh Parad appeared for the petitioners.

Rajiv Chavan and Geeta Mulekar represented the Central Board for Film Certification.

The petitioners alleged that the film Aarakshan gave a strong anti-reservation message contrary to the mandate of the constitution and settled law, would create enmity between different castes and communities and would disturb public tranquillity. The Censor Board was a party to the dispute with the petitioners seeking a cancellation of the film’s certificate.

The respondents argued that the film was not anti-reservation or anti-Dalit, but used the issue of reservation as a landscape or backdrop on which the story and journey of the protagonist, who is the principal of an institution, is based, explained Naik in an email. “The film highlights the commercialisation of education system in the present society.”

Considering the sensitivity of the subject of the Film and in view of the apprehensions expressed by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes about the content of the film in a press note of 6 July, the Censor Board set up a committee of experts flown down from Delhi to examine the film. The committee had a total of nine members and two officials, including retired justice Mukul Mudgal, chairperson of the Censor Board Leela Samson, Pankaj Sharma and Dalit activist Rajni Tilak and other members of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes.

The committee and Censor Board passed the film with a U/A certificate.

Naik also cited the judgment of Hon’ble Apex Court in the cases of S. Rangarajan vs. P Jagjevan Ram & Ors. and Union of India & Ors. vs. P. Jagjivan Ram & Ors. [(1989) 2 SCCC 574] wherein “the court observed that the fundamental freedom guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Article 19 (2) and the restrictions must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency”, according to the firm.

In this judgment, allowing the appeal filed by the producer, the court had upheld that the producer or as a matter of fact any other person has the right to draw attention of the government and the people that the existing method of reservation in educational institutions overlooks merits.

The bench of justice DD Sinha and AR Joshi declined to reject the petitioner’s request to stay a release of the film.

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