Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the ‘fringe groups’ who have been opposing the release of the controversial film Padamvati and threatening to kill artists. The court, while hearing matters pertaining to the murders of Dabholkar and Pansare, observed that the world’s largest democracy is cutting to a sorry figure owing to these incidents.
The division bench of Justice Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a batch of petitions seeking monitoring of the investigations in the murders of Dabholkar and Pansare. The judges were irked after being informed that some accused in the case are still at large.
Referring to the deaths of activists like Dabholkar, Pansare, Kulbargi and even journalist Gauri Lankesh, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “The states of Karnataka and Maharashtra are known for their progressive and modern thinking. But such incidents are bringing nothing but disrepute to the states, reducing them to sorry figures.”
During the course of hearing, Justice Dharmadhikari indirectly referred to the recent controversy around the release of film Padmavati, wherein fringe groups have vehemently opposed the film’s exhibition in public.
Taking a note of the same, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “The situation today is that people are not allowed to voice their opinion. If anyone says he/she wants to voice their opinion, they are stopped from doing so by some fringe groups. This does not augur well for the state.”
“A director is not allowed to exhibit his feature film in public and, at the same time, he is also subjected to threats. Apart from the director, an actress is also facing death threats. Some fringe groups are announcing rewards to kill artists. In which country do we get to see such distressing incidents? What have we come to be?” Justice Dharmadhikari added.
The judges were shocked to note that some chief ministers have supported these fringe groups by disallowing the film’s release. “It is shocking to see people are announcing rewards to kill artists. And worst still is that some chief ministers have decided not to allow the film’s release,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.
The judge further said: “India is the largest democracy. We are only concerned with the country’s image and reputation globally. We are of the view that no one can take pride in such open threats and declaration of rewards for killing artists. We are cutting a very sorry figure.”
The judges also said the makers of the film are financially sound, so they can stand the opposition but what if poor people are meted out such a treatment.
Accordingly, the judges, while pulling up both the agencies, directed the top officials of the CBI as well as the SIT to convene a meeting with the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) and the Special Public Prosecutor, appearing for the agencies. The judges have asked the top brass officials to take a ‘stock’ of the situation and undertake appropriate steps, else they will be summoned to remain present in the court.
Taking a note of the ‘miserable failure’ of the CBI and the SIT to trace the absconding accused, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “In other countries, offenders of such major incidents are nabbed within hours. We think the agencies must learn from India’s past experience of brutal attack on Parliament and also the killing of a Prime Minister.”
The matter would be next heard on December 21.