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SC stays ban on The Kerala Story in West Bengal

SC stays ban on The Kerala Story in West Bengal

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stayed the West Bengal government's ban on the controversial film 'The Kerala Story'. The state administration has argued that the film contains hate speech and poses a threat to law and order.

A bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud said that the film has been granted certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and it is the duty of the government to maintain law and order. "Prohibition by West Bengal is not tenable. The order of the additional secretary of WB shall remain stayed."

"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 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," said the West Bengal government in its affidavit.

It pointed out 13 such instances quoting intelligence reports.

"You can't make fundamental rights be dependent on public display of emotion. Public display of emotion has to be controlled. You don't like it, don't see. You're saying ban film on the basis of 13 people... you get any 13 people, they'll say ban any movie. Unless you're showing them cartoons," said the CJI.

The court also asked the Tamil Nadu government to ensure adequate security for every theatre and movie-goers who want to watch the film. In Tamil Nadu, the government did not impose a ban on the film but the TN Multiplex Association decided to not screen it due to expected violence. It is alleged to be a shadow ban.

"The film was only shown in a few multiplexes owned by pan-India groups, mostly PVR. Locally-owned multiplexes had already decided not to show the film, as it did not have any popular stars. In Coimbatore, for instance, there were two shows so far... Even those did not do well. Given that, theatres decided that it was not worth going through the threat of protests and such," said M Subramaniam, the president of the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association.

"No steps whether tacit or express, formal or informal shall be taken by Tamil Nadu… to prevent its screening. The legal provision cannot be used to put a premium on public intolerance. Otherwise, all films will find themselves in this spot," said the bench comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala.

The court also asked the producer of the film to put a disclaimer in the film regarding the unsubstantiated figure of '32,000' by 5 pm on May 20. "The disclaimer shall say: there is no authentic data to back up the suggestion that the figure of converted people is 32,000 or any other figure; the film represents a fictionalised version of the subject matter," said the CJI.

The pleas challenging the CBFC certification of the film will be heard on the second of July and the court is set to watch it before the hearing.

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