Mamata gets a jolt from SC; stays ban on ‘The Kerala Story’

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the West Bengal government’s order banning the screening of the film “The Kerala Story” and asked Tamil Nadu to ensure the safety of moviegoers after theatre owners decided to stop screening the film due to security concerns.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also directed the producer to put a disclaimer in the movie by 5 pm on May 20 on the claim that 32,000 Hindu and Christian women were converted to Islam.

According to the apex court, the disclaimer should say that “there is no authenticated data to back up the suggestion on figure of conversion and the film represents the fictionalised version”.

The bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, said it would like to watch the movie before proceeding to decide the pleas challenging the grant of CBFC certification. It said the petitions will be heard in the second week of July.

The bench also took note of submissions that there was no ban on the film in Tamil Nadu and asked the state government to ensure the safety and security of moviegoers.

During the hearing, it said that statutory provisions cannot be used to “put a premium on public intolerance”.

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 Central Board of Film Certification (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 P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, said during the hearing.

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.

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 top court was 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 (IS).