'The Kerala Story': SC stays WB order banning film, asks TN to ensure safety of moviegoers

Poster of the film 'The Kerala Story'

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the order of the West Bengal government banning the screening of the film 'The Kerala Story' across the state.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala took into the record the assurance of the Tamil Nadu government that there is no direct or indirect ban on the film.

It directed the Tamil Nadu government that adequate security shall be provided to every cinema hall and requisite arrangements shall be made to ensure the safety of moviegoers.

West Bengal on 8 May had imposed a ban on screening of the film in the State to avoid "any incident of hatred and violence and to maintain peace in the State".

"Prima facie we are of the view that the prohibition by West Bengal is not tenable on the basis of material before. Thus the order banning the film is stayed," the bench said in its order.

With regard to Tamil Nadu, the bench in its order stated, "We direct that adequate security shall be provided to every cinema hall and requisite arrangement shall be made to ensure the safety of moviegoers. No express steps whether tacit etc. shall be taken to prevent the screening of the film."

It further asked the filmmakers to ensure that the movie carries a proper disclaimer.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for film producers, assured the bench that disclaimer will contain that film is a fictionalised version of events and there is no authentic data to back up the figure of conversion (of women to Islam) is 32,000.

To set the controversy aside, the disclaimer shall be added by 5 pm on May 20, said the senior counsel.

Salve added that filmmakers have videos and interviews of girls on the basis of which movie is made.

Regarding the challenge to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certification of the film, the bench posted the matter for hearing on 18 July saying it would first have to see the movie for that.

Poster of the film 'The Kerala Story'.

Chief Justice said that the court will define the doctrine and lay down what is permissible and what is not.

"We will see the film and decide," the bench added.

Earlier, the West Bengal government told the Supreme Court that the film 'The Kerala Story' is based on manipulated facts and contains hate speech that may hurt communal sentiments and cause disharmony between the communities which can lead to order issues in the State.

Filing its affidavit before the top court, the Mamata Banerjee government said that film can cause communal disharmony and a law and order situation, as has been gauged from various Intelligence inputs.

Filmmakers of the movie challenged the ban on the film by West Bengal and the de-facto ban in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu government in its affidavit has told the apex court that the filmmakers of 'The Kerala Story' have made deliberately misleading statements that the government has imposed a shadow ban on the movie, however, theatres stopped screening the film due to poor audience response.

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Filing the affidavit, the State had said that the theatre owners had voluntarily stopped screening the film on 7 May onwards due to poor performance of actors/ poor response to the movie or lack of well-known actors in the movie.

Earlier, the apex court questioned the West Bengal government over banning the film saying the movie is running in different parts of the country with similar demographic profiles.

It had said the movie is being released all over the country and why the West Bengal government should not allow it to run.

The makers contended 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.

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 plea of filmmakers said.

The film depicts how thousands of young women were allegedly brainwashed into joining the Islamic State (IS) and heading off to countries like Syria and Afghanistan.
'The Kerala Story', starring Adah Sharma, was released in cinemas on 5 May.