Supreme Court Verdict on Portrayal of Persons with Disabilities in Media

Supreme Court Verdict on Portrayal of Persons with Disabilities in Media


Recently, the Supreme Court delivered a significant verdict regarding the representation of persons with disabilities in films and visual media, asserting that creative freedom does not extend to lampooning, stereotyping, misrepresenting, or disparaging individuals with disabilities.

GS-02 (Indian Polity)


Key Highlights:

  • Creative Freedom Limits: The Supreme Court ruled that while creative freedom is important, it does not include the liberty to portray persons with disabilities in a disparaging manner. If a work infringes on their rights, it is not protected speech.
  • Balancing Rights: The court noted that if a stereotypical or disparaging portrayal is justified by the overall message of the film, the filmmaker’s rights must be balanced against the fundamental and statutory rights of those portrayed.
  • Case Background: The verdict stemmed from a petition by activist Nipun Malhotra, who alleged an insensitive portrayal of persons with disabilities in the film “Aankh Micholi,” produced by Sony Pictures.
  • Role of Humour: Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, who authored the judgment, acknowledged that humour can challenge negative notions about disabilities. However, he condemned terms such as “cripple” and “spastic” and advised against using terms like “afflicted,” “suffering,” and “victim,” which contribute to a negative self-image.
  • Inclusivity in Decision-Making: The court advised that persons with disabilities should be major stakeholders on statutory committees, particularly when making decisions under the Cinematograph Rules, to protect their rights.


  • Protecting Rights: The verdict underscored the importance of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities against harmful stereotypes in media, reinforcing their dignity and respect.
  • Influence on Media Representation: This ruling is expected to have a significant impact on how films and visual media depict persons with disabilities, promoting more sensitive and respectful portrayals.
  • Legal Precedent: The decision sets a legal precedent balancing creative freedom with the rights of individuals portrayed, influencing future judgments in similar cases.
  • Global Commitments: The court’s reminder to the government about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities highlights India’s commitment to international standards and the need to incorporate the lived experiences of persons with disabilities in policy-making.
  • Empowerment: By involving persons with disabilities in decision-making processes, the judgment promotes inclusivity and ensures their perspectives are considered in protecting their rights.