Today, The Supreme Court stayed the decision of the West Bengal government to ban screening of the film The Kerala Story in the State.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud 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).
"West Bengal by an order dated May 8 issued an order under Section 6(1) read with section 4 of West Bengal Cinemas Regulation Act prohibiting exhibition of the film in entire West Bengal. Prima facie we are of the view that the prohibition by West Bengal is not tenable on the basis of material before. Thus the order banning the film is stayed," the Court ordered.
Importantly, the Court directed the film-makers to ensure that the movie carries a disclaimer clearly stating that the film is a fictionalised version of events and there is no authentic data to back up the figure of conversion (of women to Islam) is 32,000.
Regarding the challenge to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certification, the Court said it would be listed after summer vacations as the Court would first have to see the movie for that.
Earlier, the DMK government submitted that the filmmakers are deliberately submitting misleading statements in court and the government has not imposed any ‘shadow’ ban on the screening of the film ‘The Kerala Story.’
"The exhibitors have themselves stopped the screening of the movie due to the poor audience response and the government cannot do anything to increase the audience patronage for the said film, except to provide security to the cinema theatres," an affidavit filed by Tamil Nadu said.
The government said that the film was released in 19 multiplexes and the filmmakers have submitted no document to prove that the State stopped the screening of the film.
The government further submitted that the decision was made by the cinema owners based on criticism received by the film, poor performance, poor audience response, etc.
"The multiplex owners took the decision to stop screening the film from May 5 in view of the criticism received by it / lack of well-known actors / poor performance / poor audience response. The State exercises no control over decisions. It is reiterated that this decision was made by the theatre owners on their own and the State had no role to play over the same," the affidavit added.
The affidavit mentions deployment of 965 police personnel including 25 DSPs were posted for the protection of the 21 movie theatres where the film was screened.
The Supreme Court has even questioned the West Bengal government on its decision to ban the film ‘The Kerala Story.’ "The movie is being released all over the country and why the West Bengal government should not allow it to run," a bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha asked.
Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government decided to ban the film in the state to avoid "Any incident of hatred and violence and to maintain peace in the state".
The filmmakers then approached the court and submitted that the state government has no power to ban a film cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification.
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