Delhi HC Directs Centre To Hold Consultation With Stakeholders To Make Films Accessible To Those Suffering From Visual Or Hearing Impairments
The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Centre to hold a consultation with stakeholders, including producers, broadcasters and disability rights organisations, and submit a report on making films accessible to those suffering from visual or hearing impairments.
Justice Prathiba M Singh observed there was "no manner of doubt" that the framework on making contents accessible to persons with disabilities ought to be implemented an "urgent basis" and "across the board".
The court was hearing a petition by certain persons suffering from visual and hearing impairments who sought directions to make Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan, accessible to them. Deepika Padukone and John Abraham are also in the movie.
The four petitioners -- a law student, two lawyers and a disability rights activist -- have contended that under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD Act), the government has to take measures to ensure access to content to those suffering from disabilities.
In January, the court had directed Yash Raj Films to provide Hindi subtitles and closed captions as well as audio description for the OTT release of the film for the benefit of those suffering from visual and hearing impairments.
"The court is of the opinion that although the directions for Pathaan have been implemented, a broad stakeholder consultation would be required to ensure the implementation (of the framework) in letter and spirit," said the court on Thursday.
"Let the stakeholder consultation be competed by the end of August and a status report be filed by the Ministry (of Information and Technology)," ordered the court.
The court stated the ministry was free to frame guidelines on the issue and may place them before it.
The court noted that the stakeholders for consultation would include the film producers, OTT platforms, TV broadcasters, disabled persons organisations, NBDA and others that the ministry may deem appropriate.
On a request made by lawyer Rahul Bajaj, one of the petitioners, the court also said the ministry shall consider having a sign language interpreter for the consultation process for the benefit on a hearing-impaired attendee.
The court also asked him to give details of the interpreter to the high court and said the registrar general may consider availing his/her services to enable one of the petitioners to observe the proceedings in the matter.
During the proceedings, the court was informed by the parties that in October 2019, the Centre had already issued a circular asking the film producers to have requisite features to make the content disabled-friendly.
Bajaj argued that the requirement should become a "mandate" and "reasonable accommodation" ought to be made for persons with disabilities so long as they do not impose any "undue burden".
The court observed that although the Centre has directed inclusion of features for making content accessible to disabled persons, the same are not implemented across the board and asked the Centre to "consider the manner in which the (PWD) Act and the circular of 2019 can be implemented".
Bajaj claimed that the cost incurred for introducing subtitles, audio description for films is a small amount and the CBFC ought to insist on such features for certification.
Some objective exceptions may be carved out such as for films having a small budget, he added.
Counsel for Yash Raj Films said an amount of around Rs 6 lakh along with GST was spent to comply with the court directions for film 'Pathaan'.
The Counsel for Amazon said the platform always intends to improve its services.
The petitioners had earlier told the court that technology, including applications, was available to enable persons with visual and hearing impairment to enjoy a film in theatres if the producer shares the audio of the movie with them.
Last month, the court had said measures have to be taken to enable such persons to experience films in theatres.
The matter would be heard next on September 26.
With PTI Inputs