SC Calls Homosexuality A 'Social Evil,' Shelves Film On India's Gay Prince - Homegrown

SC Calls Homosexuality A 'Social Evil,' Shelves Film On India's Gay Prince

The Indian Supreme Court has once again dealt a severe blow to the LGBT movement in India by observing that a section of society may perceive homosexuality similar to 'social evils' and rendering a Gujarati film on Manvendra Singh Gohil, the Prince Of Rajpipla who became India's first royal to openly admit that he is gay, in 'cold storage' as reported by The Indian Express.'Meghdhanyshya- the colour of life' is based on the true story of the prince and his 'sufferings,' and was cleared by the censor board. The Gujarat government grants 100 per cent exemption of entertainment tax for all Gujarati colour films made after 1st April, 1997 but this relief is not meant for movies which are depicting evil customs, blind faith, Sati, dowry and such 'Social evils' and 'those against national unity'. Meghdhanyshya had been denied this exemption by the State Tax Commissioner who said that it would send the message that the state was endorsing and encouraging homosexuality, which may cause friction in the society, and that no 'decent family' can watch the movie.
KR Devmani, a former ayurveda doctor who turned director with this film, approached the Gujarat High court arguing that the tax commissioner could not play 'super Censor Board'. The Gujarat High Court ruled in favour of the director in February 2014 stating that the state government's decision deprived Devmani of his fundamental right to freedom of expression and that a movie could not be stalled even if it was based on a controversial subject. The ruling came despite the Gujart government counsel arguing that the film will be a threat to national security and that it promotes an activity defined as an offence under Section 377 of the IPC, additionally stating that the movie depicted 'Social Evils' and was opposed to 'public policy'.The State Government then approached the Supreme Court under the contention that it had denied tax exemption after considering the 'social structure' and 'public policy' as movie came under the ambit of showing 'social evils'. The SC then stayed the order in April 2014 while stating in October that the matter would be up for final hearing in January 2015.  But the matter only came up for hearing on Tuesday where a bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh K Goel granted leave in the matter, stating that the interim order which denied tax exemption to the movie would continue.
Granting leave in court procedure means that the case would be heard only after all the arguments in all cases, filed and admitted for hearing before it, are concluded which meant that Devmani's case which was filed in 2014 would not come up for hearing in the ordinary course for atleast three years from now. Devmani's advocate Anand Grover told the the bench," If my lords are granting leave in this matter, it would virtually mean I have lost the case since a movie cannot wait so long for a decision." The bench replied," If you think like this, let that be. We have already passed our order."When Grover argued and pointed out how Onir's 'I Am' on homosexuality had gone on to win the national award, the bench responded, "We agree there can be different views. We know your personal views. But there are people in whose views this may be akin to social evils.” The court suggested that the film could be released by the director without the exemptions to which Grover replied that besides the small-time film-maker's financial compulsions, the issue of an individual's fundamental right to speech and expression, and his right to equality with other film-makers was on trial.
“I think the movie is killed. It cannot wait for another three or four years when there is no certainty that the court will eventually rule in my favour," rued Devmani. "It is ironical that movies showing extra-marital relationships and containing scenes of rape and violence are given the exemption but a movie depicting sufferings of a homosexual person does not pass the state’s muster," stated the film-maker, pointing out a blatant hypocrisy which plays out in India daily.

Words: Devang Pathak

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