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Friday, June 9, 2023

‘Can’t look the other way when theatres are attacked’, SC seeks response of TN, Bengal on ‘The Kerala Story’

The Supreme Court on Friday posed a series of queries to the West Bengal government in connection with the ban on the film ‘The Kerala Story’, saying that the film is being exhibited in the rest of the country and there is no reason why it should be banned in the state.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and P.S. Narasimha told senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, representing the West Bengal government: “The film has been released in the rest of the country, West Bengal is no different from any other part of the country.”

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the filmmakers, said the film ran in theatres for three days.

The Chief Justice said: “If the film can run in peace in other parts of the country, why should the state of West Bengal ban the film? If the public does not find it worth seeing, they will not see the film.”

The top court sought a response from the governments of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu governments on a plea of the producers of “The Kerala Story” that the movie is not being shown in theatres in these two states.

Though West Bengal has banned the movie after three days of its screening in theatres, Tamil Nadu has not banned the film but the exhibitors have withdrawn from cinema halls owing to security concerns.

The Chief Justice said: “It is running in different parts of the country, which has a similar democratic profile as the state of West Bengal. Why should you not allow a film to run?”

The bench said: “This has nothing to do with the artistic value of the film, the film may be good art, or it may be bad art. It may be irrelevant.”

After hearing submissions, the top court issued a notice to the West Bengal government.

Singhvi said according to intelligence inputs, there may be a law and order problem, and peace among different communities may be breached.

The bench also asked the Tamil Nadu government to specify measures taken to provide adequate security for theatre screening of the movie.

Salve said there is de facto ban in Tamil Nadu as theatres screening the movie are being threatened, as a result they are not screenings.

Advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, contended that there is no ban on the movie.

The bench said the state government cannot say that it will look the other way when theatres are attacked and chairs are being burnt.

Salve stressed that for West Bengal, his clients seek quashing of the ban order.

After hearing submissions, the top court issued a notice to the West Bengal and Tamil Nadu governments and scheduled the matter for further hearing next week.

On May 10, the Supreme Court agreed to examine a plea by the filmmakers of ‘The Kerala Story’ against the West Bengal government’s order on the movie.

The filmmakers submitted 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.

The filmmakers claimed that the state government cannot cite law and order issues to stop the screening of the movie. They argued that it will result in the violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed to them.

On May 8, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced the ban on screening of ‘The Kerala Story’. She also instructed the West Bengal chief secretary, H.K. Dwivedi to take the necessary steps on this count.

“Certain scenes in the said film can affect the air of peace and harmony in West Bengal. So, we have decided to ban its screening everywhere in the state, including Kolkata and the districts. The decision has been taken to maintain peace and harmony,” the chief minister told media persons.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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