West Bengal ban on ‘The Kerala Story’: SC agrees to hear plea by producers on May 12

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear on May 12 a plea by the producers of controversial multilingual film ‘The Kerala Story’ against the West Bengal government’s ban on screening of the movie after the makers said they are “losing money everyday”.

Senior advocate Harish Salve mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha.

Salve said the petition challenges the ban by the West Bengal government and the “de-facto” ban in Tamil Nadu.

The bench said it had on Tuesday posted for May 15 a separate plea against the Kerala High Court order refusing to stay the release of the movie and the fresh plea would also be heard on that day.

However, the bench agreed to list the plea for hearing on May 12 after Salve said, “We are losing money everyday.”

‘The Kerala Story’ starring Adah Sharma was released in cinemas on May 5.

Directed by Sudipto Sen, the film depicts how women from Kerala were forced to convert to Islam and recruited by the terror group Islamic State(IS).

On May 8, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had ordered an immediate ban on the screening of the film in the state to avoid “any incident of hatred and violence”, a senior state government official had said.

The apex court had on Tuesday agreed to hear on May 15 a plea against the Kerala High Court order refusing to stay the release of the film.

On May 5, the high court had refused to stay the release of the movie and said the trailer does not contain anything offensive to any particular community as a whole.

The high court had noted the producers’ submission that they do not intend to retain an “offending teaser” which contained a statement that “32,000 women” from Kerala were converted and joined a terrorist organisation.

It had said the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has examined the movie and found it suitable for public exhibition.

The high court had also noted that the producers have published a disclaimer along with the movie which specifically says it is fictionalised and a dramatised version of events and that the film doesn’t claim accuracy or factuality of historic events.

“In view of the disclaimer also, we are not inclined to pass an interim order restraining the respondents from exhibiting the film as such. In view of the above and taking into consideration the statement made by the producer that the producer does not intend to retain the offending teaser in their social media handles, no further orders are necessary in this petition at this stage,” the high court had said.

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It was hearing a batch of petitions which sought to set aside the certificate for public display given to the movie by the Censor board among other pleas including to ban it.

The petitions before the high court had contended that the movie “falsely portrayed” certain facts which had resulted in “insulting” the people of Kerala, and sought a stay on the movie’s impending release.

On May 4, the apex court had refused to entertain for a third time a plea challenging the CBFC certification granted to the movie, saying courts must be very careful while staying exhibition of films.

It had observed that producers have invested money in the film and actors have dedicated their labour, and it is for the market to decide if the movie is not up to the mark.

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