The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain Congress Leader Amit Panwar's plea for a stay on the release of the biopic on PM Narendra Modi ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The bench headed Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was of the view that the film, not having yet been certified for release by the CBFC which is the competent authority, the issue agitated before it is premature. Further, even if the certificate is granted, whether the film tilts the balance in favour of any political party is a matter to be looked into by the Election Commission.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the petitioner, pointed out that the trailer begins with an overly-enthusiastic young boy selling tea at a railway station, with the narration 'ek mamuli chaiwala desh ka PM ban gaya' (an ordinary tea-vendor became the nation's PM), that the song released with the trailer is BJP's campaign anthem from the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, that some of PM Modi's popular dialogues have been employed in the movie ('Fakir hun. Jhola uthha ke chal dunga', and where the PM challenges Pakistan and warns the neighbouring State) and that the lyricist of the film (Prasoon Joshi) also happens to be CBFC Chairman.
"The visual impact is much stronger", contended Congress MP Dr. Singhvi, also flagging the use of the term 'chowkidaar' in connection with the film which is also the prefix to the official handle of the PMO.
Continuing, the Senior Counsel indicated that one Anand Pandit, who is a producer of the biopic, is also the convenor of the commerce cell of the BJP; Acharya Manish, another producer, has also become part of the PM's team; the third producer Suresh Oberoi (who happens to be the father of actor Vivek Oberoi who plays PM Modi in the film) has been an active member of the BJP since 2004; and that a MOU for over Rs. 100 crores was signed by one Sandeep Singh, also a producer, with the Gujarat government in January, 2019, with a mention to Vivek Oberoi playing the hero.
Finally, Dr. Singhvi contended that the Lead actor has been notified as the official BJP star campaigner only two days back. "Level-playing field is of paramount importance in the electoral law! The campaigning is stopped 48 hours before the poll but this will continue for 40 days!", he urged.
"Too much of the court's time is taken up by these non-issues! Look at your prayers- is it your case that the film has been certified for release? Don't force our hand!", observed the Chief Justice sharply.
"The representation to the Election Commission was made on the 20th of March but it has still not decided the issue. The Model Code of Conduct has already come in...With all due respect, the court is meant for these things. This is a constitutional matter concerning the Basic Structure...", Dr. Singhvi sought to submit.
"We don't think so!", asserted Chief Justice Gogoi, proceeding to dictate the order.
Dismissing the petition, The bench recorded that it has refused to see the trailer of the film "because a 2-minute view of the film cannot help in knowing the impact of the film in the forthcoming general elections", that The circumstances on the release of the biopic are for the Election Commission to see, and that Even if all that the petitioner claims is found to be true, he will be entitled to the relief which he has himself sought for the film to not be screened forty-eight hours prior to the polls.