17 May 2023 1:45 AM GMT
Defending the ban imposed on the controversial movie "The Kerala Story", the State of West Bengal told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that the film is based on “manipulated facts and contains hate speech in multiple scenes that may hurt communal sentiments and cause disharmony between the communities”.The State Government said that it took the decision to ban the public exhibition of...
Defending the ban imposed on the controversial movie "The Kerala Story", the State of West Bengal told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that the film is based on “manipulated facts and contains hate speech in multiple scenes that may hurt communal sentiments and cause disharmony between the communities”.
The State Government said that it took the decision to ban the public exhibition of the film invoking its statutory power under Section 6(1) of the West Bengal Cinema Regulation Act 1954 based on intelligence reports that the hate speech in the multiple scenes in the film "may hurt communal sentiments and cause disharmony between the communities which will eventually lead to a law and order situation".
"During surveillance, it has been observed that the audience makes very objectionable comments whenever they see a particular scene where Hindu or Christian girls are seen tortured. It has also been observed that while coming out of movie halls people discuss among themselves to limit their interaction with Muslims and or that these Muslims ought to be taught a lesson", the affidavit further says. Reference is also made to alleged incidents of violence in other parts of the country which were sparked by social media posts about the movie.
The State was responding to a writ petition filed by the producer of the film, Sunshine Productions, challenging the ban on the film, which has courted controversy over its claims that over 32,000 women from Kerala have been deceitfully converted to Islam and recruited to terror organization ISIS.
The State also questioned the producer directly approaching the Supreme Court, bypassing the Calcutta High Court and highlighted that the Supreme Court had earlier refused to entertain the petitions filed against the film, asking those petitioners to approach the concerned High Court. It further pointed out that PILs challenging the ban on the film are pending in the Calcutta High Court.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud will hear the petition today. The producer has also alleged that the movie is facing a 'shadow ban' in Tamil Nadu as the exhibitors were forced to withdraw the film after indirect threats. Refuting this, the State of Tamil Nadu told the Supreme Court that the multiplexes withdrew the film in view of the "criticism received, lack of well-known actors, poor performance, and poor audience response".
Last week, while hearing the petitions, Chief Justice of India had questioned the West Bengal government's decision, by pointing out that the film was running without problems elsewhere in the country.
"The film is released in the rest of the country. West Bengal is not different from other parts of the Country. If it can run on other parts of the country, why should the State of West Bengal ban the film? If the public does not think that the film is worth seeing, they will not see it. It is running in other parts of the country which have similar demographic profile as West Bengal. Why should you not allow a film to run?", CJI had asked.
The Court will also hear today a petition filed challenging the Kerala High Court's refusal to stay the screening of the film.
On May 8, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee had announced the decision to ban the screening of the movie "to avoid any incident of hatred and violence, and to maintain peace in the state".
Challenging this decision, the film makers approached the Supreme Court invoking Article 32 of the Constitution, contending that the State Government has no power to ban a movie which has been certified for public viewing by the Central Board of Film Certification. The petitioners contend that the State Government cannot cite law and order issues to stop the screening of the movie, which will result in the violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed to them. The petitioners have also challenged the validity of Section 6(1) of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1954 on the ground that it is conferring arbitrary and unguided powers to the State Government.
The movie has courted controversy over allegations that it is tarnishing the entire Muslim community and the Kerala state while portraying the story of women who were recruited to ISIS through deceit.
On May 5, a division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising Justice N. Nagaresh and Justice Sophy Thomas had refused to stay the exhibition of the film. The Court observed that the film only said that it was 'inspired by true events' and that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had certified the film for public viewing. The bench also watched the trailer of the film and opined that there was nothing offensive to any particular community in it. The bench also noted that none of the petitioners had watched the film and that the producers had added a disclaimer that the film was a fictionalised version of events. However, the High Court also recorded the submission of the producer that the teaser of the movie, which claimed that over 32,000 women from Kerala were recruited to ISIS, will be removed from their social media accounts.