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Supreme Court lays down framework for portraying persons with disabilities in visual media

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by News Desk

The Supreme Court on Monday laid down a framework for portraying persons with disabilities (PwDs) in visual media in the case of Nipun Malhotra v. Sony Pictures Films India Pvt Ltd.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a petition against disrespectful remarks made against PwDs in a movie named ‘Aankh Micholi’. 

Appellant claimed that the film violates the constitutionally protected rights of persons with disabilities; and the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 19521 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. It further claimed Central Board of Film Certification has violated its statutory duty to certify films in accordance with the applicable guidelines.

The court observed, “There have been jokes made on disabled for comic relief. This understanding is obsolete under the new social model. This lack of familiarity arises due to inadequate representation of disabled in dominant discourse. We must distinguish disability humour which helps in understanding the disabled, but the other is disablement humour which denigrates it,” 

Thus, as per the bar and bech report, the judgement laid down following guidelines for the portrayal of PwDs in visual media that aligns with the anti-discrimination and dignity affirming objectives of the Constitution as well as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act-

  • Avoid using words that lead to institutional discrimination and contribute to a negative self-image, such as ‘crippled,’ etc.
  • Avoid language that overlooks social barriers faced by individuals with disabilities.
  • Ensure visual media must reflect lived experiences of PwDs and should not be a uni-dimensional, ableist characterisation.
  • Ensure portrayals reflect multifaceted lives of PwDs, emphasising their roles as active community members who contribute meaningfully across various spheres of life.
  • Ensure creators verify adequate medical information about an impairment, such as night blindness, to prevent increasing discrimination.
  • Portrayals should not be based on myths or stereotypes, such as the notion that individuals with impairments possess enhanced sensory superpowers, as this is not universally applicable.
  • Decisions should be made with awareness of uniform participation, adhering to the principle of ‘nothing about us without us.’

written by Shagun Behal

case title- Nipun Malhotra v. Sony Pictures Films India Pvt Ltd

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