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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 12, March 14, 2015

Editors Guild of India decries Ban on the Documentary ’India’s Daughter’

Saturday 14 March 2015

The Government of India’s move in banning the telecast of the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ depicting the aftermath of the brutal gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya is wholly unwarranted, based as it is on a misunder-standing of the power and the message behind it. The documentary portrays the courage, sensitivity and liberal outlook of a family traumatised by the brutality inflicted on the daughter, the continuing shameful attitudes towards women among the convict as well as the educated including lawyers and multiple voices in support of women’s freedom and dignity including students, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Justice Leila Seth, Oxford academic Maria Misra and senior advocate and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam. While the Supreme Court has declared that there should be the broadest freedom to express even the most unacceptable of views, the message that emerges from the documentary is wholly positive and its power is such as to make people re-examine their own attitudes and the attitudes of people around them.

The Nirbhaya incident has been an obvious matter of public interest and has through all the stages of the investigation, trial and confirmation by the High Court, been subject to a widespread public debate and discussion, protests and demonstrations and enquiry by the Justice Verma Commission that suggested reform of the law. To raise the issue of sub judice now at the stage of final appeal in the Supreme Court and seek to still discussion is absurd. Judges, particularly in the Supreme Court, are by training and temperament immune to the happenings in the public sphere outside the court, and it is an insult to the Supreme Court to suggest that the airing of the convict’s perverted views would tend to interfere with the course of justice.

Prompted by initial expressions of outrage, including by Members of Parliament, over the views of the convict included in the docu-mentary, the government seems to have decided on the ban without viewing the documentary in its entirety. The rationale that the ban was in the interests of justice and public order as the film “created a situation of tension and fear amongst women” and as that the convict would use the media to further his case in the appeal that was sub judice seems to be an afterthought.

The Editors Guild of India appeals to the Government of India to revoke the ban forthwith and enable the people to view what is a positive and powerful documentary touching on the freedom, dignity and safety of women.