The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the West Bengal government’s order banning the recently released film, ‘The Kerala Story’. The West Bengal government’s order, issued on May 8 and prohibiting the screening of the movie “The Kerala Story,” will be overturned, according to a bench presided over by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.
The court ordered Tamil Nadu to provide adequate security to every cinema hall for the safe screening of “The Kerala Story” and to ensure the safety of the audience. The court further ordered the state not to directly or indirectly obstruct the screening of the movie.
The assertion made by the movie that 32,000 women from Kerala had been deceitfully converted to Islam and recruited by the ISIS, was also questioned by the bench during the hearing.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve agreed to state in the disclaimer that “there is no authentic data available to support the suggestion that the figure of conversions is 32,000 or any other established figure,” speaking on behalf of the movie producer. By May 20, he stated, the disclaimer would be included. The disclaimer will make it clear that the subject matter was fictionalised for the film.
During the hearing, the bench told senior lawyer A.M. Singhvi, who was arguing on behalf of the West Bengal government, that the state government had banned the movie 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 apex court pointed out that the movie had been seen nationwide. Singhvi said West Bengal’s demographic is very different and it has to be considered.
The Chief Justice said: “You can’t expect demographic to be the same everywhere…power is to be exercised in proportional way…”
The Chief Justice told Singhvi, “If you didn’t like it, don’t watch the film,” and added, “You cannot make fundamental rights dependent on public displays of emotion.”
The Chief Justice told the West Bengal government’s legal representative that, in the event of an incident, the state government could take an action in a specific district about the movie’s display, but the entire state could not outlaw it.
The West Bengal government has argued before the Supreme Court that the movie “The Kerala Story” is based on falsified facts and contains hate speech in numerous sequences, which could lead to conflict between the groups. This argument serves as justification for banning the film’s screening.
In a counter affidavit, the state government claimed that allowing the film to be shown would lead to unrest and not be in the interests 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 stated that by exercising its authority under section 6 (1) of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, it has imposed a ban on the film’s exhibition in order to preserve public order and for the welfare of the general public.