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He's kidding, right? The barricade looked like a guillotine waiting to crush intruders. Fache grumbled something in French and checked his watch. Then he dropped to his knees and slithered his bulky frame underneath the grate. On the other side, he stood up and looked back through the bars at Langdon. Langdon sighed. Placing his palms flat on the polished parquet, he lay on his stomach and pulled himself forward. As he slid underneath, the nape of his Harris tweed snagged on the bottom of the grate, and he cracked the back of his head on the iron.

Very suave, Robert, he thought, fumbling and then finally pulling himself through. As he stood up, Langdon was beginning to suspect it was going to be a very long night. The second, eighth, and sixteenth floors contain chapels, ornamented with mill- work and marble. The seventeenth floor is entirely residential. Men enter the building through the main doors on Lexington Avenue. Women enter through a side street and are "acoustically and visually separated" from the men at all times within the building. Earlier this evening, within the sanctuary of his penthouse apartment, Bishop Manuel Aringarosa had packed a small travel bag and dressed in a traditional black cassock.

Normally, he would have wrapped a purple cincture around his waist, but tonight he would be traveling among the public, and he preferred not to draw attention to his high office. Only those with a keen eye would notice his karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre- crozier applique. Throwing the travel bag over his shoulder, he said a silent prayer and left his apartment, descending to the lobby where his driver was waiting to take him to the airport. Now, sitting aboard a commercial airliner bound for Rome, Aringarosa gazed out the window at the dark Atlantic.

The sun had already set, but Aringarosa knew his own star was on the rise. Tonight the battle will be won, he thought, amazed that only months ago he had felt powerless against the hands that threatened to destroy his empire. The congregation, founded in by the Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva, promoted a return to conservative Catholic values and encouraged its members to make sweeping sacrifices in their own lives in order to do the Work of God. Opus Dei's traditionalist philosophy initially had taken root in Spain before Franco's regime, but with the publication of Josemaria Escriva's spiritual book The Way — points of meditation for doing God's Work in one's own life — Escriva's message exploded across the world.

Now, with over four million copies of The Way in circulation in forty-two languages, Opus Dei was a global force. Its residence halls, teaching centers, and even universities could be found in almost every major metropolis on earth. Opus Dei was the fastest-growing and most financially secure Catholic organization in the world.

Unfortunately, Aringarosa had learned, in an age of religious cynicism, cults, and televangelists, Opus Dei's escalating wealth and power was a magnet for suspicion. Which are you? We are a congregation of Catholics who have chosen as our priority to follow Catholic doctrine as rigorously as we can in our own daily lives.

Thousands of Opus Dei members are married, have families, and do God's Work in their own communities. Others choose lives of asceticism within our cloistered residence halls. These choices are personal, but everyone in Opus Dei shares the goal of bettering the world by doing the Work of God.

Surely this is an admirable quest. The media always gravitated toward scandal, and Opus Dei, like most large organizations, had within its membership a few misguided souls who cast a shadow over the entire group. Two months ago, an Opus Dei group at a midwestern university had been caught drugging new recruits with mescaline in an effort to induce a euphoric state that neophytes would perceive as a religious experience.

Another university student had used his barbed cilice belt more often than the recommended two hours a day and had given himself a near lethal infection. In Boston not long ago, a disillusioned young investment banker had signed over his entire life savings to Opus Dei before attempting suicide. Misguided sheep, Aringarosa thought, his heart going out to them. Of course the ultimate embarrassment had been the widely publicized trial of FBI spy Robert Hanssen, who, in addition to being a prominent member of Opus Dei, had turned out to be a sexual deviant, his trial uncovering evidence that he had rigged hidden video cameras in his own bedroom so his friends could watch him having sex with his wife.

The group's popular website — www. The group enjoyed the full endorsement and blessing of the Vatican. Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Pope himself. Recently, however, Opus Dei had found itself threatened by a force infinitely more powerful than the media Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow. For an instant, his eyes refocused, lingering on the reflection of his awkward face — dark and oblong, dominated by a flat, crooked nose that had been shattered by a fist in Spain when he was a young missionary.

The physical flaw barely registered now. Aringarosa's was a world of the soul, not of the flesh. As the jet passed over the coast of Portugal, the cell phone in Aringarosa's cassock began vibrating in silent ring mode.

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Despite airline regulations prohibiting the use of cell phones during flights, Aringarosa knew this was a call he could not miss. Only one man possessed this number, the man who had mailed Aringarosa the phone. Excited, the bishop answered quietly. Within the Church of Saint-Sulpice. But we need your influence. Tell me what to do. He gazed once again into the void of night, feeling dwarfed by the events he had put into motion.

Five hundred miles away, the albino named Silas stood over a small basin of water and dabbed the blood from his back, watching the patterns of red spinning in the water. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, he prayed, quoting Psalms. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Silas was feeling an aroused anticipation that he had not felt since his previous life. It both surprised and electrified him. For the last decade, he had been following The Way, cleansing himself of sins Tonight, however, it had all come rushing back.

The hatred he had fought so hard to bury had been summoned. He had been startled how quickly his past had resurfaced. And with it, of course, had come his skills. Rusty but serviceable. Jesus' message is one of peace This was the message Silas had been taught from the beginning, and the message he held in his heart. And yet this was the message the enemies of Christ now threatened to destroy. Those who threaten God with force will be met with force. Immovable and steadfast. For two millennia, Christian soldiers had defended their faith against those who tried to displace it.

Tonight, Silas had been called to battle. Drying his wounds, he donned his ankle-length, hooded robe. It was plain, made of dark wool, accentuating the whiteness of his skin and hair. Tightening the rope-tie around his waist, he raised the hood over his head and allowed his red eyes to admire his reflection in the mirror. The wheels are in motion. He was staring into the mouth of a long, deep canyon. On either side of the gallery, stark walls rose thirty feet, evaporating into the darkness above. The reddish glow of the service lighting sifted upward, casting an unnatural smolder across a staggering collection of Da Vincis, Titians, and Caravaggios that hung suspended from ceiling cables.

Still lifes, religious scenes, and landscapes accompanied portraits of nobility and politicians. Although the Grand Gallery housed the Louvre's most famous Italian art, many visitors felt the wing's most stunning offering was actually its famous parquet floor. Laid out in a dazzling geometric design of diagonal oak slats, the floor produced an ephemeral optical illusion — a multi- dimensional network that gave visitors the sense they were floating through the gallery on a surface that changed with every step.

As Langdon's gaze began to trace the inlay, his eyes stopped short on an unexpected object lying on the floor just a few yards to his left, surrounded by police tape. He spun toward Fache. The painting, Langdon guessed, was worth upward of two million dollars, and yet it was lying on the floor like a discarded poster. We have touched nothing. That canvas was pulled from the wall by the curator. It was how he activated the security system. The gate fell immediately, sealing off all access. This is the only door in or out of this gallery.

The killer was locked out there in the hallway and shot Sauniere through this gate. He fired through the bars. Sauniere died in here alone. They said he did that to himself. Langdon looked out at the enormous corridor before them. Equally breathtaking was the corridor's width, which easily could have accommodated a pair of side-by-side passenger trains.

The center of the hallway was dotted by the occasional statue or colossal porcelain urn, which served as a tasteful divider and kept the flow of traffic moving down one wall and up the other. Fache was silent now, striding briskly up the right side of the corridor with his gaze dead ahead. Langdon felt almost disrespectful to be racing past so many masterpieces without pausing for so much as a glance. Not that I could see anything in this lighting, he thought. The muted crimson lighting unfortunately conjured memories of Langdon' s last experience in noninvasive lighting in the Vatican Secret Archives.

This was tonight's second unsettling parallel with his near-death in Rome. He flashed on Vittoria again. She had been absent from his dreams for months. Langdon could not believe Rome had been only a year ago; it felt like decades. Another life. His last correspondence from Vittoria had been in December — a postcard saying she was headed to the Java Sea to continue her research in entanglement physics Langdon had never harbored delusions that a woman like Vittoria Vetra could have been happy living with him on a college campus, but their encounter in Rome had unlocked in him a longing he never imagined he could feel.

His lifelong affinity for bachelorhood and the simple freedoms it allowed had been shaken somehow They continued walking briskly, yet Langdon still saw no corpse. Sauniere suffered a bullet wound to his stomach. He died very slowly. Perhaps over fifteen or twenty minutes. He was obviously a man of great personal strength. Louvre security responded immediately to the alarm and found the Grand Gallery sealed. Through the gate, they could hear someone moving around at the far end of the corridor, but they could not see who it was. They shouted, but they got no answer.

Assuming it could only be a criminal, they followed protocol and called in the Judicial Police. We took up positions within fifteen minutes. When we arrived, we raised the barricade enough to slip underneath, and I sent a dozen armed agents inside. They swept the length of the gallery to corner the intruder.

At first he thought Fache was pointing to a large marble statue in the middle of the hallway. As they continued, though, Langdon began to see past the statue. Thirty yards down the hall, a single spotlight on a portable pole stand shone down on the floor, creating a stark island of white light in the dark crimson gallery. In the center of the light, like an insect under a microscope, the corpse of the curator lay naked on the parquet floor.

Before him was one of the strangest images he had ever seen. The pallid corpse of Jacques Sauniere lay on the parquet floor exactly as it appeared in the photograph. As Langdon stood over the body and squinted in the harsh light, he reminded himself to his amazement that Sauniere had spent his last minutes of life arranging his own body in this strange fashion. Sauniere looked remarkably fit for a man of his years He had stripped off every shred of clothing, placed it neatly on the floor, and laid down on his back in the center of the wide corridor, perfectly aligned with the long axis of the room.

His arms and legs were sprawled outward in a wide spread eagle, like those of a child making a snow angel Just below Sauniere's breastbone, a bloody smear marked the spot where the bullet had pierced his flesh. The wound had bled surprisingly little, leaving only a small pool of blackened blood. Sauniere's left index finger was also bloody, apparently having been dipped into the wound to create the most unsettling aspect of his own macabre deathbed; using his own blood as ink, and employing his own naked abdomen as a canvas, Sauniere had drawn a simple symbol on his flesh — five straight lines that intersected to form a five-pointed star.

The pentacle. The bloody star, centered on Sauniere's navel, gave his corpse a distinctly ghoulish aura. The photo Langdon had seen was chilling enough, but now, witnessing the scene in person, Langdon felt a deepening uneasiness. He did this to himself. Used over four thousand years before Christ. Telling someone what a symbol "meant" was like telling them how a song should make them feel — it was different for all people.

A white Ku Klux Klan headpiece conjured images of hatred and racism in the United States, and yet the same costume carried a meaning of religious faith in Spain. Nowadays, the term pagan had become almost synonymous with devil worship — a gross misconception. The word's roots actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning country- dwellers.

In fact, so strong was the Church's fear of those who lived in the rural villes that the once innocuous word for "villager" — villain — came to mean a wicked soul. The ancients envisioned their world in two halves — masculine and feminine. Their gods and goddesses worked to keep a balance of power. Yin and yang. When male and female were balanced, there was harmony in the world. When they were unbalanced, there was chaos. The goddess Venus and the planet Venus were one and the same. The goddess had a place in the nighttime sky and was known by many names — Venus, the Eastern Star, Ishtar, Astarte — all of them powerful female concepts with ties to Nature and Mother Earth.

Langdon decided not to share the pentacle's most astonishing property — the graphic origin of its ties to Venus. As a young astronomy student, Langdon had been stunned to learn the planet Venus traced a perfect pentacle across the ecliptic sky every four years. So astonished were the ancients to observe this phenomenon, that Venus and her pentacle became symbols of perfection, beauty, and the cyclic qualities of sexual love. As a tribute to the magic of Venus, the Greeks used her four- year cycle to organize their Olympiads. Nowadays, few people realized that the four-year schedule of modern Olympic Games still followed the cycles of Venus.

Even fewer people knew that the five-pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment — its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings to better reflect the games' spirit of inclusion and harmony. Langdon," Fache said abruptly. Your American horror movies make that point clearly. Thank you, Hollywood. The five-pointed star was now a virtual cliche in Satanic serial killer movies, usually scrawled on the wall of some Satanist's apartment along with other alleged demonic symbology.

Langdon was always frustrated when he saw the symbol in this context; the pentacle's true origins were actually quite godly. The original feminine meaning is correct, but the symbolism of the pentacle has been distorted over the millennia. In this case, through bloodshed. Symbols are very resilient, but the pentacle was altered by the early Roman Catholic Church. As part of the Vatican's campaign to eradicate pagan religions and convert the masses to Christianity, the Church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil.

In the battle between the pagan symbols and Christian symbols, the pagans lost; Poseidon's trident became the devil's pitchfork, the wise crone's pointed hat became the symbol of a witch, and Venus's pentacle became a sign of the devil. We paint it on all our fighter jets and hang it on the shoulders of all our generals. What do you make of that?

Repeating a symbol is the simplest way to strengthen its meaning. Jacques Sauniere positioned himself in the shape of a five-pointed star. Fache's eyes followed the five points of Sauniere's arms, legs, and head as he again ran a hand across his slick hair. He'd been wondering the same thing ever since he first saw the Polaroid. His best guess was that a naked human form was yet another endorsement of Venus — the goddess of human sexuality. Fache, I obviously can't tell you why Mr. Sauniere drew that symbol on himself or placed himself in this way, but I can tell you that a man like Jacques Sauniere would consider the pentacle a sign of the female deity.

The correlation between this symbol and the sacred feminine is widely known by art historians and symbologists. And the use of his own blood as ink? Uncertain, he circled the corpse and crouched down, now noting with surprise that the curator was clutching a large, felt-tipped marker. Are you familiar with this kind of pen?

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He glanced up in surprise. The black-light pen or watermark stylus was a specialized felt-tipped marker originally designed by museums, restorers, and forgery police to place invisible marks on items. The stylus wrote in a noncorrosive, alcohol-based fluorescent ink that was visible only under black light.

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Nowadays, museum maintenance staffs carried these markers on their daily rounds to place invisible "tick marks" on the frames of paintings that needed restoration. As Langdon stood up, Fache walked over to the spotlight and turned it off. The gallery plunged into sudden darkness. Momentarily blinded, Langdon felt a rising uncertainty. Fache's silhouette appeared, illuminated in bright purple.

He approached carrying a portable light source, which shrouded him in a violet haze. So you can imagine our surprise Langdon looked down and jumped back in shock. His heart pounded as he took in the bizarre sight now glowing before him on the parquet floor.

Scrawled in luminescent handwriting, the curator's final words glowed purple beside his corpse. As Langdon stared at the shimmering text, he felt the fog that had surrounded this entire night growing thicker. Langdon read the message again and looked up at Fache. With the exception of the eerie, robot-like doll of a medieval knight that seemed to be staring at him from the corner of Sauniere's desk, Collet was comfortable.

He adjusted his AKG headphones and checked the input levels on the hard-disk recording system. All systems were go. The microphones were functioning flawlessly, and the audio feed was crystal clear. Smiling, he closed his eyes and settled in to enjoy the rest of the conversation now being taped inside the Grand Gallery. A two-room suite with a stone floor and minimal furnishings, it had been home to Sister Sandrine Bieil for over a decade. The nearby convent was her formal residence, if anyone asked, but she preferred the quiet of the church and had made herself quite comfortable upstairs with a bed, phone, and hot plate.

As the church's conservatrice d'affaires, Sister Sandrine was responsible for overseeing all nonreligious aspects of church operations — general maintenance, hiring support staff and guides, securing the building after hours, and ordering supplies like communion wine and wafers. Tonight, asleep in her small bed, she awoke to the shrill of her telephone. Tiredly, she lifted the receiver. Eglise Saint-Sulpice. Sister Sandrine sat up. What time is it? Although she recognized her boss's voice, in fifteen years she had never been awoken by him.

The abbe was a deeply pious man who went home to bed immediately after mass. I just received a call from an influential American bishop. Perhaps you know him? Manuel Aringarosa? Who in the Church doesn't? Aringarosa's conservative prelature had grown powerful in recent years. Their ascension to grace was jump- started in when Pope John Paul II unexpectedly elevated them to a "personal prelature of the Pope," officially sanctioning all of their practices. Suspiciously, Opus Dei's elevation occurred the same year the wealthy sect allegedly had transferred almost one billion dollars into the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works — commonly known as the Vatican Bank — bailing it out of an embarrassing bankruptcy.

In a second maneuver that raised eyebrows, the Pope placed the founder of Opus Dei on the "fast track" for sainthood, accelerating an often century-long waiting period for canonization to a mere twenty years. Sister Sandrine could not help but feel that Opus Dei's good standing in Rome was suspect, but one did not argue with the Holy See. His plane leaves very early.

He has always dreamed of seeing Saint-Sulpice. The sun's rays through the oculus, the graduated shadows on the gnomon, this is what makes Saint-Sulpice unique. He can be there at That's in twenty minutes. It would be my pleasure. Puzzled, Sister Sandrine remained a moment in the warmth of her bed, trying to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. Her sixty-year-old body did not awake as fast as it used to, although tonight's phone call had certainly roused her senses. Opus Dei had always made her uneasy. Beyond the prelature's adherence to the arcane ritual of corporal mortification, their views on women were medieval at best.

She had been shocked to learn that female numeraries were forced to clean the men's residence halls for no pay while the men were at mass; women slept on hardwood floors, while the men had straw mats; and women were forced to endure additional requirements of corporal mortification It seemed Eve's bite from the apple of knowledge was a debt women were doomed to pay for eternity.

Sadly, while most of the Catholic Church was gradually moving in the right direction with respect to women's rights, Opus Dei threatened to reverse the progress. Even so, Sister Sandrine had her orders. Swinging her legs off the bed, she stood slowly, chilled by the cold stone on the soles of her bare feet.

As the chill rose through her flesh, she felt an unexpected apprehension. Women's intuition? A follower of God, Sister Sandrine had learned to find peace in the calming voices of her own soul. Tonight, however, those voices were as silent as the empty church around her. Jacques Sauniere's final communication seemed as unlikely a departing message as any Langdon could imagine. The message read: O, Draconian devil! Oh, lame saint! Although Langdon had not the slightest idea what it meant, he did understand Fache's instinct that the pentacle had something to do with devil worship.

O, Draconian devil! Sauniere had left a literal reference to the devil. Equally as bizarre was the series of numbers.

We believe these numbers may be the key to who killed him. Maybe a telephone exchange or some kind of social identification. Do the numbers have any symbolic meaning to you? If Sauniere had even intended any. To Langdon, the numbers looked totally random. He was accustomed to symbolic progressions that made some semblance of sense, but everything here — the pentacle, the text, the numbers — seemed disparate at the most fundamental level.

How does this message fit in? This bizarre communique obviously did not fit Langdon's scenario of goddess worship at all. O, Draconian devil? Oh, lame saint? Fache said, "This text appears to be an accusation of some sort. Wouldn't you agree? It seemed logical. Let me ask you this, Mr. To your eye, beyond the numbers, what about this message is most strange?

A dying man had barricaded himself in the gallery, drawn a pentacle on himself, and scrawled a mysterious accusation on the floor. What about the scenario wasn't strange? Langdon was fairly certain that a reference to Draco — the ruthless seventh-century B. And yet he chose to write this message Fache nodded. Any idea why? He shrugged. Fache motioned back to the pentacle on Sauniere's abdomen. Are you still certain? I'm sorry I can't be of more help. Sauniere had apparently lay down and swung the pen around himself in several long arcs, essentially inscribing himself inside a circle.

In a flash, the meaning became clear. Sauniere had created a life-sized replica of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous sketch. Considered the most anatomically correct drawing of its day, Da Vinci's The Vitruvian Man had become a modern-day icon of culture, appearing on posters, mouse pads, and T-shirts around the world. The celebrated sketch consisted of a perfect circle in which was inscribed a nude male Da Vinci. Langdon felt a shiver of amazement.

The clarity of Sauniere's intentions could not be denied. In his final moments of life, the curator had stripped off his clothing and arranged his body in a clear image of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The circle had been the missing critical element. A feminine symbol of protection, the circle around the naked man's body completed Da Vinci's intended message — male and female harmony.

The question now, though, was why Sauniere would imitate a famous drawing. Langdon," Fache said, "certainly a man like yourself is aware that Leonardo da Vinci had a tendency toward the darker arts. Da Vinci had always been an awkward subject for historians, especially in the Christian tradition. Despite the visionary's genius, he was a flamboyant homosexual and worshipper of Nature's divine order, both of which placed him in a perpetual state of sin against God. Moreover, the artist's eerie eccentricities projected an admittedly demonic aura: Da Vinci exhumed corpses to study human anatomy; he kept mysterious journals in illegible reverse handwriting; he believed he possessed the alchemic power to turn lead into gold and even cheat God by creating an elixir to postpone death; and his inventions included horrific, never-before-imagined weapons of war and torture.

Misunderstanding breeds distrust, Langdon thought. Even Da Vinci's enormous output of breathtaking Christian art only furthered the artist's reputation for spiritual hypocrisy. Accepting hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions, Da Vinci painted Christian themes not as an expression of his own beliefs but rather as a commercial venture — a means of funding a lavish lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Da Vinci was a prankster who often amused himself by quietly gnawing at the hand that fed him. He incorporated in many of his Christian paintings hidden symbolism that was anything but Christian — tributes to his own beliefs and a subtle thumbing of his nose at the Church. He was an exceptionally spiritual man, albeit one in constant conflict with the Church. He glanced down at the message on the floor again. Langdon weighed his words carefully. Maybe, by imitating a famous Da Vinci drawing, Sauniere was simply echoing some of their shared frustrations with the modern Church's demonization of the goddess.

Sauniere dedicated his life to studying the history of the goddess, and nothing has done more to erase that history than the Catholic Church. It seems reasonable that Sauniere might have chosen to express his disappointment in his final good-bye. Langdon, I have seen a lot of death in my work, and let me tell you something. When a man is murdered by another man, I do not believe his final thoughts are to write an obscure spiritual statement that no one will understand.

I believe he is thinking of one thing only. I believe Sauniere wrote this note to tell us who killed him. Lame saints? Draconian devils? Pentacles on his stomach? It's all too cryptic. The agent superieur knew it was moments like these that had lifted the captain to the pinnacle of French law enforcement. Fache will do what no one else dares. The delicate art of cajoler was a lost skill in modern law enforcement, one that required exceptional poise under pressure.

Few men possessed the necessary sangfroid for this kind of operation, but Fache seemed born for it. His restraint and patience bordered on the robotic. Fache's sole emotion this evening seemed to be one of intense resolve, as if this arrest were somehow personal to him. Fache's briefing of his agents an hour ago had been unusually succinct and assured. You know what to do.

No mistakes tonight. And so far, no mistakes had been made. Collet was not yet privy to the evidence that had cemented Fache's certainty of their suspect's guilt, but he knew better than to question the instincts of the Bull. Fache's intuition seemed almost supernatural at times. God whispers in his ear, one agent had insisted after a particularly impressive display of Fache's sixth sense.

The Lost Symbol

The captain attended mass and confession with zealous regularity — far more than the requisite holiday attendance fulfilled by other officials in the name of good public relations. When the Pope visited Paris a few years back, Fache had used all his muscle to obtain the honor of an audience. A photo of Fache with the Pope now hung in his office. The Papal Bull, the agents secretly called it. Collet found it ironic that one of Fache's rare popular public stances in recent years had been his outspoken reaction to the Catholic pedophilia scandal. These priests should be hanged twice!

Fache had declared.

The da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?

Once for their crimes against children. And once for shaming the good name of the Catholic Church. Collet had the odd sense it was the latter that angered Fache more. Turning now to his laptop computer, Collet attended to the other half of his responsibilities here tonight — the GPS tracking system. The image onscreen revealed a detailed floor plan of the Denon Wing, a structural schematic uploaded from the Louvre Security Office.

Letting his eyes trace the maze of galleries and hallways, Collet found what he was looking for. Deep in the heart of the Grand Gallery blinked a tiny red dot. According to him, the disclaimer card and the words that this film is a work of fiction would not take away the injury inflicted upon millions and millions of Christians.

According to the learned counsel, the film was released in countries abroad which are predominantly Catholic and that is because there, the community itself is a majority community and perhaps, they had no reason to feel threatened, whereas since here the Christian community is a minority community, the screening of this film threatens them.

The learned counsel submitted that history shows that Jesus Christ lived and walked the face of this earth and it also gives the details regarding the appearance of Mary Magdelene in the Bible and what she was. To concoct a story that Jesus Christ married her offends the religious sensibilities of the Christians of this State and therefore, the impugned order was rightly issued.

According to him, Article 25 of the Constitution is an individual right and must be protected. It is the subjective satisfaction of the authority regarding the breach of peace that is crucial for the issuance of the impugned order, and the order impugned in this writ petition shows that there is such subjective satisfaction. Finally, M. The relevant provisions of the Cinematograph Act , are extracted hereunder :.

Board of Film Certification] - 1 For the purpose of sanctioning films for public exhibition, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute a Board to be called the 1[Board of Film Certification] which shall consist of a Chairman and 2[not less than twelve and not more than twenty-five] other members appointed by the Central Government. The guidelines issued under Section 5-B 2 of the Act for Certification of Films for Public Exhibition were revised in the year and the relevant guidelines are extracted below :.

SO 9 E , dated the 7th January, , except as respects things done or omitted to be done before such supersession, the Central Government hereby directs that in sanctioning films for public exhibition, the Board of Film Certification shall be guided by the following principles In pursuance of the above objectives, the Board of Film Certification shall ensure that -. First, the effect of the dismissal by the Supreme Court of the writ petition in relation to the same film has to be seen. That writ petition, viz. He claimed that the book contains blasphemous description regarding the Christian religion and Jesus Christ, and the film is based on that book.

According to the writ petitioner, the Central Board of Film Certification has cursorily issued the certificate without taking it seriously, as it is likely to cause a serious law and order problem which is proved by the newspaper report published in "The Hindustan Times"; the disclaimer shown in the film is a mere eye-wash and it does not change the nature of the film; the book and the film hurt the sentiments of the petitioner and all the millions of Indian citizens and also the petitioner's fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 2 , 21, 25 and 32 of the Constitution.

Therefore, the petitioner sought the withdrawal of the book from the market, withdrawal of the film of the same title from all cinema halls and for cancellation of the film certificate. In the grounds, the specific portions which the petitioner found objectionable are listed and according to the petitioner, his right under Article 25 is violated. The petitioner also claimed that it was open to the State to impose such restrictions on the absolute right given under Article 19 1 in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with Foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitment to an offence.

The petitioner apprehended violence affecting public order. The writ petition itself was dismissed on No merit. The writ petition is dismissed. Section 5-B of the Act lays down the principles for guidance in certifying films and it lifts in entirety the language of Article 19 2 of the Constitution. Therefore, the restrictions of Article 19 2 guide the Board of Film Certification while granting a certificate for exhibition.

Article 19 2 refers to 'public order', whereas Section 13 refers to 'breach of peace'. Somayaji would submit that when the expert body was satisfied that public order was not likely to be endangered by the exhibition of the film and granted it a certificate, it is not for the local authority to exercise powers which over-ride the opinion of the expert body. To counter this argument, learned Additional Advocate General would submit that if one were to take that stand, then Section 13 would virtually be rendered otiose.

All the legal points that are raised here were raised before the Supreme Court. In 3 S. Sub Divisional Magistrate ], the phrase 'maintenance of public order' is explained. We are asked to imagine three concentric circles; law and order represents the largest circle, within which is the next circle representing public order and the smallest circle represents the security of the State. All cases of disturbances of public tranquility fell in the largest circle, but some of them are outside the public order for the purpose of the phrase 'maintenance of public order'.

Similarly, every breach of public order is not necessarily a case of an act likely to endanger the security of the State. The acts become graver as we journey from the periphery of the largest circle towards the centre. In this journey, we travel first through public tranquility, then through public order and lastly to the security of the State.

The overlap of public order and public tranquility is only partial. When the expression 'public order' includes absence of all acts which are a danger to the security of the State and also acts which are prevented by the expression 'ordre publique', it was observed that "in our judgment, the expression 'in the interest of public order in the Constitution' is capable of taking within itself not only those acts which disturb the security of the State or acts coming within the expression 'ordre publique' as described, but also certain acts which disturb public tranquility or are breaches of peace".

Therefore, since law and order problem was raised in the grounds of that writ petition, the order of the Supreme Court must be considered to have dealt with 'breach of peace' also. The order of the Supreme Court is passed on merits and binds this Court. That order was passed while deciding a writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, and not a petition under Article However, since arguments were advanced on the other aspects, they will also be dealt herein.

Next, we must see whether the impugned order infringes Article 1 9 1 a or whether it is protected by Article 19 2. Freedom of expression occupies a very special position among the constitutional guarantees. The right of the State to exert its power of regulation is hemmed by Article 19 2. It does not include intolerance to expression of one's views in the market place. There will be periods of renaissance in history only when there is free inflow and outpouring of ideas, ideas which may even run counter to the dominant, traditional opinion must have their free play, and this is the hypothesis on which free speech is built, that speech can rebut speech and propaganda will answer propaganda.

Some opinions expressed by the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in certain important cases will now be referred to, not because they are binding, but because they highlight the importance of freedom of expression. In Terminiello vs. Chicago [93 L.

It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire [ US pp.

See Bridges vs. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups. But those indulging in such stuff as that to which this proceeding gave rise are hardly so deserving as to lead this Court to single them out as beneficiaries for the first departure from the restrictions that bind this Court in reviewing judgments of State courts.

Courts must beware lest they become mere organs of popular intolerance. Not every show of opposition can justify treating a speech as a breach of peace. Neither speakers nor courts are obliged always and in all circumstances to yield to prevailining opinion and feeling. As a people grow in capacity for civilization and liberty, their tolerance will grow, and they will endure, if not welcome, discussion even on topics as to which they are committed. In Dennis vs. United States [95 L. Free speech has occupied an exalted position because of the high service it has given our society.

Its protection is essential to the very existence of a democracy. The airing of ideas releases pressures which otherwise might become destructive. When ideas compete in the market for acceptance, full and free discussion exposes the false and they gain few adherents.

Full and free discussion even of ideas we hate encourages the testing of our own prejudices and preconceptions. Full and free discussion keeps a society from becoming stagnant and unprepared for the stresses and strains that work to tear all civilizations apart. In Abrams vs. United States [63 L. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge.

While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

Our Supreme Court is no less protective of this cherished right. In 5 S. Union of India ], the Supreme Court, while dealing with an order of confiscation of books containing Marxist literature, referred to the supremacy of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expressed its unhappiness over the attempts at thought control in a democratic society like ours with these words :. An idea can never be killed. Suppression can never be a successful permanent policy. Any surface serenity it creates is a false one. It will erupt one day. Our Constitution permits a free trade, if we can use the expression, in ideas and ideologies.

Thought control is alien to our constitutional scheme. To the same effect are the observations of Robert Jackson, J. In American Communications Association vs. Douds [ U. Constitution -. It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error. We could justify any censorship only when the censors are better shielded against error than the censored'.

The learned Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has dealt with all the questions raised here in great detail and has referred to various decisions of the Courts in India and United States, as well as the observations of great scholars. The following extract is particularly eloquent :. Antiquities of every kind are encompassed in different proportions of fact, fiction, belief, myth and legend and present myriad hues of reality according to the subjectivity of the observer believe.

The point is whether it is a legitimate human occupation to question, probe, be skeptical about and inquire into what some others fundamentally believe and whether the right of an individual to be inquisitive or a non-conformist is not a protected value in contemporaneous civil society. Cultural, political or religious personalities having wide recognition and of medieval or ancient vintage are iconic and multifaceted persona, at the same time, historical figure, commanding faith and belief, awe and reverence, or dissapprobation and dissent, myth, legend and mystery; multifaceted since different people or classes of people or sub-cultures of society perceive and believe different aspects of the complex of the personality and differently at different times.

If Jesus is a historical personality as is widely assumed, free speech values legitimize debate and contest, discourse and dissent about the persona. If Jesus were a legend, then too is debate and refinement of the legend legitimate. This is true of every religious and iconic personality and this the condition over the millennia of History. Such dissonance is an essential attribute of the rational human personality. The values of free speech and expression command protection of such dissonance. According to the petitioners, since the impugned order violates their fundamental right, this court would sit in primary review over the same, whereas the State would contend that what this court has to decide is whether the administrative order satisfies the test of reasonableness and therefore, it is really a secondary review, and if in the subjective opinion of the authority there are materials to come to the conclusion that there is likelihood of breach of peace, then this court cannot sit in appeal over the impugned order.

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The objection of the State that judicial review of the impugned order is restricted and that merely because the petitioner claims that his fundamental right is affected one cannot widen the scope of judicial review must be rejected. If this court were to tie its hands only because the impugned order states that the local authority, viz.

The reference to Section 13 1 in the impugned order, or the reproduction of the phraseology used in the section, does not make the order automatically immune from judicial scrutiny. Union of India ], the question, how to test the State action vis-a-vis its effect on fundamental rights has been dealt with by the Supreme Court as follows :. This is the test which must be applied for the purpose of determining whether S. In fact, in the same judgment, the Supreme Court holds that even without attacking the constitutional validity of the Section under which the impugned order is made, it is always open to the court to decide whether an order made under such a Section is invalid as contravening a fundamental right, "But that does not mean that an order made under S.

While discussing the constitutional validity of the impugned order impounding the passport of the petitioner, we shall have occasion to point out that even where a statutory provision empowering an authority to take action is constitutionally valid, action taken under it may offend a fundamental right and in that event, though the statutory provision is valid, the action may be void. Every offer made under a statutory provision must not only be within the authority conferred by the statutory provision, but must also stand the test of fundamental rights.

Parliament cannot be presumed to have intended to confer power on an authority to act in contravention of fundamental rights. It is a basic constitutional assumption underlying every statutory grant of power that the authority on which the power is conferred should act constitutionally and not in violation of any fundamental rights. This would seem to be elementary and no authority is necessary in support of it. The Supreme Court also rejected, as extravagant, the argument that if the Section is held to be good, the consideration of any question of infringement of fundamental rights is wholly beside the point, referring to A.

Union of India ]. The Supreme Court therefore, held that though the impugned order is within the terms of the relevant section, "it must nevertheless, not contravene any fundamental rights and if it does, it would be void. The case of the State is that the restriction imposed is reasonable. Therefore, straightaway, we must take it as tacitly accepted that the fundamental right of the petitioners has been placed under restriction. The question now is, whether it is substantively and procedurally reasonable. The film makes it clear that it is only a work of fiction.

In fact, the leaders of the Christian community note with approval that the claim made in book that, "all descriptions of art work, architect, documents and sacred rituals in this novel are accurate", is eschewed in the film, where straightaway it is claimed that the entire work is fiction. Picture International vs. Central Board of Film Certification], the Central Board of Film Certification refused to grant censor certificate to the film, 'Chand Bhujh Gaya' on the ground that it is full of gory visuals of violence and gruesome killings and that certain characters have definite resemblance to real life personalities and on the ground that the violence which took place in the State of Gujarat is still a live issue.

The Division Bench of the Bombay High Court, while acknowledging the fact that a court exercising writ jurisdiction would ordinarily not substitute its view for the view of an expert, yet interfered in the matter, since the learned judges felt that the word 'ordinarily' furnishes the key to the manner in which the court shall exericse its jurisdiction and it was because the courts have made a commitment as expounders of the constitutional principles, and when the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification entrenches upon the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, it is not merely the function, but the duty and responsibility of the court to intervene and therefore, they directed the first respondent to issue an appropriate censor certificate.

In this case, the authority which should certify whether a film shall be exhibited or not has granted a certificate and inspite of that, the local authority has passed the suspension order. The local authority has adverted its attention neither to the special features of this case nor to the circumstances under which the certificate has been granted.

More particularly, it should be noted that on just the day prior to the passing of the impugned order, the second petitioner had submitted a representation to the Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, bringing to his notice the events that culminated in the grant of the certificate and offered to show the film to the authorities concerned and the members of the Christian community, if need be, and sought with all respect, the State's support in releasing the film in Tamil Nadu.

Without reference to any of this, the impugned order has been passed extracting the language of the Section and " fluffing" it up by stating that the sensibilities of a large section of the people had been offended. It would be dangerous to allow the State to straight-jacket the right to freedom of expression, as artistic expression may be asphyxiated by law, if a petulant group of selfappointed 'Censors' prescribe the paradigms for suspending the exhibition of a film which has got the approval of the Censor Board.

The fact that the Censor Board is a high powered body with a statutory mandate to grant certificates for films is not in dispute. So, even more than in the case of "Chand Bhuj Gaya', it is the duty of the Court to protect the petitioner. When a pro bono publico prosecution was launched against the producer of the film, "Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram" in A. State ], the Supreme Court observed that the Censor Certificate is a relevant material, important in its impact, though not infallible in its verdict. While holding that the Court is not barred from trying the case, the Supreme Court observed that the Magistrate cannot brush aside what another Tribunal for similar purpose found and this is crucial :.

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