R. BALAJI AND SUMI SUKANYA
New Delhi, Aug. 14: The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition seeking a ban on the upcoming Aamir Khan movie PK for alleged obscenity and outraging religious sentiments, saying: “If you don’t like, you don’t watch.”
In the evening, parliamentarians appeared divided on whether to take a similar stance on an issue raised in the Rajya Sabha by Samajwadi member Jaya Bachchan: the “double-meaning jokes and mocking of MPs by RJs”.
One MP told The Telegraph the lawmakers should be “sporting” about the radio jokes, which cannot be as bad as the abuse they cop from one another in the Houses.
If freedom of expression in the entertainment industry was the link in the two issues, the Supreme Court left no one in any doubt what it thought of the plea against PK.
“This is art, entertainment, don’t bring religious facets. If you don’t like, you don’t watch. Let others watch,” a three-judge bench told petitioner All India Human Rights and Social Justice, an NGO. “Has it been through the censor board? Others have a right to watch. How is your legal and constitutional right violated?”
The petitioner had objected to two purported scenes in the Raj Kumar Hirani-produced Bollywood film, which is due for a December release. One apparently shows a semi-nude Aamir; the other allegedly portrays Lord Shiva pulling a cycle-rickshaw.
The court rejected counsel Nafis A. Siddiqui’s argument that the film would hurt religious sentiments and create communal tensions.
“It is a mature society. They (people) know the difference between entertainment and other things,” the bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Kurien Joseph and R.F. Nariman said. “This is the age of Internet. What will you hide? Youth are very smart these days.”
The court’s stand carried echoes of what Rajiv Gandhi had told the Lok Sabha 27 years ago when members protested Doordarshan’s late-night airing of A-certificate Indian and foreign films. “If you don’t like what’s being shown, you are most welcome to switch the TV set off,” the then Prime Minister had said.
The late-night movies continued till the advent of private cable TV in the early 1990s.
Jaya today specifically cited RJs. “The language used by radio jockeys on private FM channels is extremely objectionable,” she said. “Now they’ve started giving their views on Parliament and they mimic a lot of parliamentarians. I want to know whether the government will do something about it.”
Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar agreed that it was a “serious” matter. “We have got some complaints and we are considering what action is to be taken,” he said.
The option of filing defamation charges is available to all citizens, including MPs. It was not clear what the minister meant by “action” or why the government has to look into it.
Outside the House, several MPs felt RJs sometimes crossed the line, saying radio jockeys had treated lawmakers like punching bags during the Anna Hazare agitation.
Some said slander and abuse were being passed off as jokes but they did not cite any specific remarks.
One MP did but it did not sound vulgar. The Lok Sabha member recalled an RJ’s comment after the Supreme Court referred to Delhi’s suspended Assembly and said lawmakers couldn’t sit idle at home at the taxpayer’s expense.
“I heard an RJ remark, ‘What do MPs and MLAs do but idle away anyway! They are only interested when they have to fill their pockets.’ This, I think, is a very offensive comment,” said the MP.
BJP Lok Sabha member and Bhojpuri actor-singer Manoj Tiwari differed. “In a country where MPs and MLAs abuse each other in Parliament and the Assemblies, they should not bother when RJs and TV anchors joke about them,” he said.
Anuraag Pandey, an RJ with Fever 104 FM channel, said: “We speak extempore but have clear instructions not to speak on matters related to politics, religion or sex. We crack jokes about public figures but they are mostly actors and sportspersons. Our audiences are not interested in politicians, anyway.”
Officials in Javadekar’s ministry said they did not regularly monitor radio content. They recalled an instance when FM radio channels were “warned” against making unsolicited calls to people and airing the conversations, invading their privacy, after a suicide in the UK.
Javadekar later tweeted: “I never said we object to mimicry on MPs. Anybody can mimic us. People can make fun; we never mind.” He added that Jaya and other MPs had objected to “vulgarity and double-meaning jokes” and that he had offered to “look into it”.