The division bench of the High Court of Kerala, comprising Acting Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu, has refrained from interfering in the appeal filed by ' S Durga ' movie director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, and observed that it was proper that the single bench considered the matter.
Earlier this week, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan had filed a writ petition against the exclusion of his film ‘ S Durga ’ from the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which is set to commence on the 20th of this month in Goa. Sasidharan had come in appeal before the division bench complaining that the single bench had declined to grant interim relief at admission stage. He was also aggrieved by the fact that there was no urgent posting given to the case before the commencement of the festival. Stating his apprehension that the delay in considering the matter will render the same infructuous, he approached the division bench through an intra-court appeal.
The division bench proceeded to hear the matter in detail, taking on record the statement filed on behalf of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. In the statement, the Union Ministry contended that Sasidharan had submitted the film for Indian Panorama without certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). It was admitted in the statement that the jury had selected the movie. However, it was contended that the jury had watched the uncertified version of the movie, with its original title ‘Sexy Durga’. The uncertified version had objectionable and provocative content, which, according to the ministry, made it unworthy of exhibition in the IFFI. In counter to this, it was contended on behalf of Sasidharan that the movie had got certification from CBFC in the meantime, and that the only changes suggested by the CBFC were changing the title as ‘S Durga’ and muting of some abusive words. It was also pointed out on his behalf that there was no deletion of scenes, and that the duration of the movie remained the same even after certification. Hence, the argument on behalf of Sasidharan was that the substantive creative content of the movie remained unaltered, even after certification, without any difference from the version viewed by the jury. He also submitted that he was never communicated the reason for exclusion, despite his representation seeking reasons, and that he came to know about the same only through the statement filed by the ministry in court. It was also stated on his behalf that he was always ready and willing to exhibit the certified version.
At this juncture, the division bench orally observed that ministry ought to have acted more fairly by affording Sasidharan an opportunity to submit the certified version of the movie. The court also expressed surprise at the manner in which Sasidharan was kept in darkness regarding the move to exclude the movie. It was also inferred from the materials on record that the ministry had knowledge about the fact that the movie had got ‘U/A’ certificate from CBFC, and hence, the court further observed that it was all the more necessary for the ministry to have afforded an opportunity to Sasidharan to submit the certified version of the movie.
It seemed at one point of time that the court was inclined to direct the ministry and the festival director to exhibit the certified version of the film in the festival. Meanwhile, a preliminary objection as to the maintainability of the writ petition was raised on behalf of the ministry, by stating that no part of cause of action had arisen in Kerala. In reply to this objection, it was contended on behalf of Sasidharan that a part of cause of action had arisen in Kerala conferring Kerala High Court territorial jurisdiction, placing reliance on Article 226(2) of the Constitution of India.
Thereupon, the court adjourned the matter for posting after the lunch recess, and directed the listing of the writ petition along with the appeal. However, upon reassembling after lunch recess, the bench expressed the view that it was proper that the single bench considered the matter, as the main writ petition was still pending. The registry was directed to list the matter on November 20. It was also expressed that as the festival would go on till November 28, there was still time available for accommodating the film, if Sasidharan was eventually found entitled to relief. IFFI opens on November 20.