Actors Can’t Be Booked for Using Drugs in Movie, Says Kerala HC as It Quashes Case against ‘Nalla Samayam’
Last Updated: March 23, 2023, 13:53 IST
The Kerala High Court has held that an actor cannot be booked for substance abuse if he is seen using drugs in a movie as it cannot be assumed that he or she had used the drugs. If such logic is assumed, actors in villainous roles would have to be booked for “murder, arson, or rape, and such crimes they commit in the movie”, the court added.
The ruling was given by Justice VG Arun in a judgment after considering a petition filed by Omar Abdul Vahab of Thrissur alias Omar Lulu and Kalandoor Kunhi Ahamad of Mangaluru, who were the director and producer of a movie named ‘Nalla Samayam’ (Good Times).
They were booked by the excise inspector of Kozhikode in December 2022 under Sections 27 and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), which deals with punishment for the consumption of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances and punishment for abetment and conspiracy, respectively.
“Section 27 of the NDPS Act provides punishment for the consumption of narcotic drug or psychotropic substances. The prosecution case is that in the trailer published by the petitioners, some characters are seen consuming drugs. I am certain that Section 27 will not apply since enactment of scenes in a movie cannot lead to the assumption that the actors had actually done what they had enacted. If that reasoning is adopted, actors in villainous roles stand the risk of being tried and convicted for murder, arson and rape,” said the court in its judgment on March 10.
The case was registered in December 2022 after a YouTube video of the trailer of the movie posted on the Facebook page of Omar Lulu showed some of the characters using drugs and “claiming that MDMA gives energy and happiness to the user”. It was alleged by the prosecution that by including such scenes, the petitioners were giving a wrong message to society and acting against the anti-drug initiative of the government.
“Section 29 deals with punishment for abetment and conspiracy. For the said provision to attract, the accused must have either abetted or conspired to commit an offence punishable under the Act. As I have already found that the main provision, viz; Section 27, is not attracted, no question of abetment or conspiracy arises,” said the court which hen quashed the case against the petitioners.
Talking to the media, after withdrawing his film from theatres, Omar Lulu in December 2022 said his film was treated unfairly as there are also other films like ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ that showed the use of banned drugs. He also said the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) censored the movie with an ‘A’ certificate which clearly states that the movie is only for adults.
Incidentally, the Kerala High Court in 2016 had quashed a criminal case against actor Prithviraj Sukumaran for not properly displaying the statutory warning against liquor consumption in a movie scene. The HC observed that actors cannot be held responsible for movie scenes depicting alcohol consumption.
Justice B. Kemal Pasha, while allowing a petition filed by Prithviraj, said the actor of a film, whether he had done the lead role or not, could not be brought within the purview of Section 55 I (1) of the Abkari Act. The court was considering a petition against a scene in which the statutory warning, “consumption of alcohol is injurious to health”, was not exhibited in the movie ‘Seventh Day’ where the actor played a lead role.
The petition alleged that the movie violated Section 55 (1) of the Abkari Act. As per the section whoever exhibits or causes to exhibit any cinema having a scene in contravention of Section (1), in any theatre shall be punishable for the offence, but the court observed that those terms in the act are vague.
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