Hindi film director andproducer Mahesh Bhatt has taken the Indian government to court over newlegislation that bans the depiction of smoking in films and TV serials.

The New Delhi High Court hasdirected the Indian government to make a submission by Sept 30 in response toBhatt's petition.

Acting through his counsel, Bhattclaimed that the new legislation is without jurisdiction as the Indian governmentdid not have the statutory power to enforce it. The filmmaker is also contendingthat the ban is a violation of the right to freedom of speech guaranteed underthe Indian Constitution.

The court argued thatartistic expression requires events to be shown in the natural course ofaction. "Smoking is not banned in life. How can you ban it in cinema'" the courtasked. "You can't make a film about a college hostel without showing smoking."

The government'snotification, issued by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on May31, banning smoking on screen is scheduled to come into effect from October 2,2005.