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The Bombay High Court today admitted a petition filed by noted filmmaker and actor Amol Palekar challenging mandatory pre-censorship of play scripts by the Maharashtra State Performance Scrutiny Board. Palekar filed this petition last year, claiming that the rules which provide for this scrutiny are arbitrary and violate the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. A division bench headed by Justice S M Kemkar today admitted the petition and posted it for final hearing on December 4. Under section 33(1)(a) of the Bombay Police Act, police can frame rules for "Licensing and Controlling Places of Public Amusement (other than cinemas) and Performance for Public Amusement including Melas and Tamashas (folk theatre)". Under these rules, "for regulation in the interest of public order, decency or morality", prior scrutiny of scripts of plays (or other live performances) is mandatory. "This pre-censorship leads to curtailment of artistic freedom.
Because of this, many historical plays have not been performed in their original form," Palekar's petition said. "Pre-censorship of theatrical performances is so arbitrary and excessive that it ought to be declared as unreasonably restricting the freedom of speech and expression of playwrights and artistes," the petition said.
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