Smoking scenes will be back on the silver screen as the government informed the Supreme Court that it would shortly permit them – though with the strict stipulation that one of the actors in the scene warns viewers that “smoking kills”. A bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told that the new notification would mandate that the films showing a smoking scene would show the actor giving a warning at the start of the film, in between after the interval while a static message would be displayed in the course of the scene showing smoking.
Senior counsel V. Shekhar, appearing for the government, told the court that the notification, superseding all earlier notifications prohibiting smoking scenes, would be issued Sep 14. He said that Sep 14 was important because on that day, a film “Heroine” by UTV Software Communication Pvt. Ltd., depicting a scene of a woman smoking is going to be released.
Adjourning the hearing of the matter, the apex court declined to entertain a plea by a counsel seeking exemption for the release of this film. Justice Sathasivam said that “we have to prioritise the issues”. “People are not getting water and food. You can survive without showing smoking and liquor scenes.” The notification will pave the way for amending rules that currently restrain filmmakers from showing smoking. The court was apprised of an Aug 2, 2012, letter written by the information and broadcasting ministry to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) asking it to “advise the filmmakers to give a 20 second anti-smoking message as approved by the ministry of health with voice over of the one of the actors who is seen smoking in the film to be displayed at the beginning and in the middle (after interval) of the film and a static message to be displayed for the duration of smoking scene in the film”.
The court was told that on the basis of this letter sent to CBFC, the government is proceeding to issue the notification. Shekhar informed the court that the information and broadcasting ministry has in principle agree with their recommendations. Taking on record the statement made by Shekhar that the fresh notification that is likely to be issued Sep 14 would supersede all earlier notifications thereby paving the way for the return of smoking scenes, the court directed listing of the matter Aug 20 for further hearing.