SC stays Bengal govt ban on ‘The Kerala Story’

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The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the West Bengal government’s order banning the public screening of movie ‘The Kerala Story’.

The court said the May 8 order suffers from “overbreadth” and is not based on any material produced before Court.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud also directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure all security arrangements be made to ensure the film’s screening and the safety of moviegoers.

The petitions seeking the ban on the film have been posted in July. The court indicated that it might have to watch the film as the Madras high court has already dismissed a petition challenging the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certification.

The producers said they will add additional disclaimers saying: There is no authentic data to back up the suggestion that the figure of converted people is 32,000 or any other figure; and the film represents a fictionalised version of the subject matter.

The bench said it is the duty of the state government to maintain law and order as the film has been granted certification by the CBFC.

“Bad films bomb at the box office,” the bench said.

“The legal provision cannot be used to put a premium on public intolerance. Otherwise, all films will find themselves in this spot,” the bench, also comprising justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, said during the hearing which is still on, news agency PTI reported.

The states cannot sit in appeal over the grant of certification to the movie, said senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for the producer of the movie.

The bench indicated that it may stay the West Bengal government order banning the film.

Salve said nobody has filed any statutory appeal against the grant of certification to the film and referred judgements to buttress his submissions that it was held that the Supreme Court cannot sit in appeal over the CBFC certification.

The apex court is hearing cross-pleas with the producer of the film challenging the ban on its screening in West Bengal and the decision by theatre owners in Tamil Nadu to not show the movie in the state while journalist Qurban Ali has challenged the Kerala high court order refusing to stay the release of the film.

The Kerala Story, starring Adah Sharma, was released in cinemas on May 5. Directed by Sudipto Sen, the film claims women from Kerala were forced to convert to Islam and recruited by the terror group Islamic State or ISIS. (With inputs from PTI)

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