Smoking ban lifted in Indian media

Court says ban a restriction on creative freedom

HONG KONG — In a setback for health campaigners in the country, an Indian court has reversed a federal ban on showing smoking in film and TV.

A New Delhi high court ruled the ban was a restriction on creative freedom.

“The directors of films should not have multifarious authorities breathing down their necks when indulging in the creative act,” said Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.

The Central Board of Film Certification can already curb scenes that glorify cigarette smoking, he said.

“A cinematographic film must reflect the realities of life. Smoking is a reality of life. It may be undesirable, but it exists,” he said.

In a 2005 act, the government had banned scenes involving smoking in film and on TV, and forced distributors and broadcasters to show health warnings on older movies where such scenes existed.

But helmer Mahesh Bhatt challenged the constitutional validity of the Cigarette and Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Rules 2005.

Kaul’s ruling also said broadcast of sports events sponsored by tobacco companies cannot be a violation of the Cinematograph Act 1952. Ruling is likely to be a relief to TV and print media struggling with the economic slowdown.

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