New Delhi, Nov 2 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Centre to put in public domain the draft guidelines for making the experience of watching films friendly for those with disabilities like hearing and visual impairment, and process them for due approval upon receiving comments from stakeholders.
The court sought a status report from the central government after it was informed the draft guidelines are under consideration and the process of finalisation will take some time.
"Let Ministry of Information and Broadcasting first publish the draft guidelines and after receiving stakeholder comments, process the guidelines for approval of ministry concerned. Let status report be filed on record," ordered Justice Prathiba M Singh during a hearing held in the presence of sign language interpreters for hearing-impaired persons.
The court was hearing a petition by four people suffering from visual and hearing impairment who sought directions for making Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Pathaan", accessible to them.
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. While three of them are visually impaired, the fourth one is hearing impaired.
The petitioners have submitted 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.
The court had earlier directed Yash Raj Films to provide Hindi subtitles and closed captions as well as audio description for the OTT release of film ‘Pathaan’ for the benefit of those suffering from visual and hearing impairment and batted for issuance of mandatory guidelines by the Centre.
The Centre Thursday told the court that several stakeholders including film producers have raised certain concerns with respect to the cost of such mandatory captioning etc, availability of technology, piracy as well as viewer experience in case of use of simultaneous sign language interpretation.
As far as costs are concerned, the court observed, the expenditure is not very high when compared to the budget of popular films and technology was also available.
For 'Pathaan', the cost for captions, audio description etc was was around 6 lakh, the court noted.
The court further recorded that as suggested by the petitioners' lawyer Rahul Bajaj, who is visually impaired, the concerns over piracy through applications showcasing movies for the benefit of persons with disability may be addressed by allowing access to those with due PWD certificates.
During the hearing, Bajaj raised concern about the possible lack of accessability features in upcoming films until the mandatory guidelines are put in place.
The court said the petitioners were free to write to the producers, and in the absence of any positive response, they could file an application before it.
The matter would be heard next on January 31.