The Supreme Court on Thursday lifted a ban imposed by the West Bengal Government on the screening of ‘The Kerala Story’ and asked it to ensure safety of moviegoers in the state.
A Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud also directed the Government of Tamil Nadu not to ensure that there was no direct or tacit ban on the film in the state and ensure safety of going to theatres to watch it.
On behalf of the filmmakers, senior counsel Harish Salve undertook that a disclaimer would be added to the film that the figure of 32,000 Hindu and Christian girls having converted to Islam was not backed by authentic data.
The Bench, which also included Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala, said it will watch the film for finally deciding the issue, including the contours of free speech, and posted the matter for further hearing on July 18 after the summer vacation.
The order came on the filmmakers’ petition challenging the ban on screening of ‘The Kerala Story’ in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu and petitions challenging the Kerala High Court’s order refusing to ban the film in the state.
On the eve of the release of ‘The Kerala Story’, the Supreme Court had on May 4 refused to entertain for the third time a petition challenging the CBFC certification granted to the film based on radicalization conversion of young Hindu women to Islam, saying courts must be very careful while staying exhibition of films.
The top court had on May 12 issued notices to governments of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu on a petition filed by the producers of ‘The Kerala Story’ challenging the ban on the film in the two states.
The Bench had noted that the film was being screened in the rest of the country without any problem and there appeared to be no reason for the ban.
“The movie is running in the rest of the country including in states having similar demographic composition and nothing has happened. This has nothing to do with the artistic value of the film. If people do not like the movie, they will not watch the movie,” the Bench had told senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, representing the West Bengal Government.
Citing some intelligence inputs, Singhvi had said there might be a situation of law and order problem and peace among different communities may be breached. The bench had asked the Tamil Nadu government to specify the measures taken to provide adequate security to theatres screening ‘The Kerala Story’.
“The state government cannot say that it will look the other way when theatres are attacked and chairs are being burnt,” the bench told the Tamil Nadu government’s counsel after he submitted that there was no ban on the movie.
On behalf of the producers of the film, senior advocate Harish Salve, had said there was a de facto ban in Tamil Nadu as theatres screening the movie were being threatened and they had dropped the screenings.