The Supreme Court on Thursday (May 18) stayed the West Bengal government’s order, which had banned the screening of the controversial film The Kerala Story. Additionally, the court directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure the safety of moviegoers after theatre owners decided to halt screenings due to security concerns.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also directed the producer to put a disclaimer in the movie by 5 pm on May 20 on the claim that 32,000 Hindu and Christian women were converted to Islam.
According to the apex court, the disclaimer should say that there is no authenticated data to back up the suggestion on the figure of conversion and the film is a fictional one.
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The bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, said it would like to watch the movie before proceeding to decide the pleas challenging the grant of CBFC certification. It said the petitions will be heard in the second week of July.
The bench also took note of submissions that there was no ban on the film in Tamil Nadu and asked the state government to ensure the safety and security of moviegoers. During the hearing, it said that statutory provisions cannot be used to put a premium on public intolerance.
The bench said it is the duty of the state government to maintain law and order as the film has been granted certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The legal provision cannot be used to put a premium on public intolerance. Otherwise, all films will find themselves in this spot, the bench, also comprising justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, said during the hearing.
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The states cannot sit in appeal over the grant of certification to the movie, said senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for the producer of the movie.
The apex court is hearing cross-pleas with the film’s producer challenging the ban on its screening in West Bengal and the decision by theatre owners in Tamil Nadu to not show the movie in the state. Meanwhile, journalist Qurban Ali has challenged the Kerala high court order refusing to stay the release of the film.
The Kerala Story, starring Adah Sharma, was released in cinemas on May 5. Directed by Sudipto Sen, the film claims women from Kerala were forced to convert to Islam and recruited by the terror group Islamic State (IS).
(With agency inputs)