SC stays WB ban on The Kerala Story but wants disclaimer stating 'no authentic data to back subject'

The SC stayed the WB government order banning 'The Kerala Story', but movie to go with clarification that "there is no authentic data available to back up subject and it is fictionalised account"

Representative image (Photo: IANS)
Representative image (Photo: IANS)


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

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said the court intends to stay the West Bengal government's order passed on May 8, banning the screening of the film 'The Kerala Story'.

The bench, also comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, also directed Tamil Nadu to provide adequate security to every cinema hall for safe screening of 'The Kerala Story' and ensure safety of moviegoers, and also the state will not directly or indirectly thwart screening of the film.

During the hearing, the bench also questioned the claim made by the film that 32,000 women from Kerala have been deceitfully converted into Islam and recruited to ISIS.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the film producer, agreed to clarify in the disclaimer that "there is no authentic data available to back up the suggestion that the figure of conversions is 32,000 or any other established figure". He said that the disclaimer will be added by May 20. The disclaimer will clarify that the film represented a fictionalised version of subject matter.

During the hearing, the bench told senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, representing the West Bengal government, that the state government banned the film on the basis of 13 people, "you get any 13 people they will say ban any movie. Unless you're showing them cartoons or sports..."

The Chief Justice said, "You can't expect demographic to be the same everywhere...power is to be exercised in proportional way...". He pointed out that one cannot make fundamental rights dependent on public display of emotion.

The top court noted that the film has been released everywhere in the country. Singhvi said West Bengal's demographic is very different and it has to be considered and asserted that the state has the duty to act to prevent breach to public peace.

Both Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind requested the bench to see the movie as it was highly offensive.

"We will have to see if we have to see the film", CJI said.

The Chief Justice told the West Bengal government counsel that steps could be taken by the state government in a particular district in connection with the screening of the movie, if there was an incident, but it could not be banned across the entire state.

The West Bengal government informed the Supreme Court that the film 'The Kerala Story' is based on manipulated facts and contains hate speech in multiple scenes, which may cause disharmony between the communities, while justifying prohibition on exhibition of the movie.

The state government, in a counter affidavit, said if the movie was allowed to be exhibited, it would cause breach of peace which will not be in the interest of justice.

"The movie is based on manipulated facts and contains hate speech in multiple scenes that may hurt communal sentiments and cause disharmony between the communities which will eventually lead to a law and order situation, as has been gauged from various intelligence inputs received by the state government over a period of time," said the affidavit.

The state government said to maintain public order and for the benefit of the general public, and by exercising its power section 6 (1) of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, it has imposed a prohibition on exhibition of the movie.

Appearing for West Bengal Police, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan said that state could not "turn a blind eye" to the provocative messages and the state had a duty to protect the interests of minorities.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee had on May 8 announced that the state would ban the screening of the movie "to avoid any incident of hatred and to maintain peace in the state". The state had in invoked its powers under Section 6(1) of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1954.

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