KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has directed the authorities to provide 85 per cent of screen time to Pakistani films and remaining 15pc to foreign films strictly in accordance with the Censorship of Film Rules.

A single-judge bench headed by Justice Kausar Sultana Hussain also issued notices to the information & broadcasting ministry, censor boards of Sindh and Punjab as well as the chairman of Central Board of Film Censors, Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), deputy commissioner-South, some cinema houses and distributors and others as well as the federal and provincial law officers for June 2.

The bench was hearing three identical suits filed by the Cereal Entertainment Productions, Wajahat Rauf and Shazia Rauf of the Showcase Communications and Showcase Films, Yasir Farid Baloch and Nida Yasir of the Farid Nawaz Production against the release of a foreign movie Dr Strange on Eidul Fitr.

They argued that the cinema owners had preferred the foreign movie over local films mainly produced by the plaintiffs.

SHC issues notices to censor boards, information ministry on film-makers’ plea against screening of Dr Strange

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Khawaja Shamsul Islam argued that the action of official defendants to allow the release and screening of a foreign movie on Eid holidays was amounting to violate fundamental rights of plaintiffs and in violation of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979 and Competition Commission Act, 2010.

He asked the court to declare the censor certificate of Dr Strange illegal as the same was received after the issuance of the certificate for Pakistani movies Chakkar, Dum Mastam and Parde Mein Rehne Do.

The lawyer also sought directives for the defendants especially DC-South, cinema houses and distributors not to reduce the playing hours of the plaintiffs’ films as well as all the Pakistani films and ensure screening of local films for at least four more weeks with 85pc prime time i.e. 6pm to 12am in cinemas all over the country.

He pleaded to compensate plaintiffs for off-screening their films, which caused losses of revenue to them.

He further argued that the ministry of information should restrict exhibition of foreign films to the extent of 15pc cinema screen as per the relevant laws and maintained that the CCP should investigate this unfair business practice.

The counsel also sought directive for official defendants to cancel all no-objection certificates of HKC Entertainment, one of the defendants, to import films and pleaded for a restraining order for the defendants from issuing any censorship certificate to any English or foreign films in the presence of Pakistani films and if any licence was issued, it should be to the extent of 15pc shows.

While referring to Rule 31 of Censorship of Film Rules, he further argued that Pakistani movies must be screened to the extent of 85pc.

After a preliminary hearing, the bench in its order stated that in the light of above-mentioned rules, the defendants especially distributors, cinema houses and DC-South were directed to follow the rules strictly in letter and spirit and provide 85pc screen time to Pakistani films including plaintiffs’ movies and 15pc to the foreign film till the next hearing.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022

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