Supreme Court Stays West Bengal's Ban on Controversial Movie 'Kerala Story'

The court said that the decision of the West Bengal government to ban the movie prima facie suffers from overbreadth

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday, May 18, stayed the ban imposed by West Bengal on the controversial film The Kerala Story, but also asked the producers to add a disclaimer that there is no authenticated data to back up its claim that thousands of women were converted to Islam and forced to join ISIS.

According to LiveLaw, the top court also recorded the statement made by Tamil Nadu’s additional advocate general Amit Anand Tiwari that there is no direct or indirect ban on the movie in the southern state, where owners of theatres have refused to play the film. According to the report, the court also directed the Tamil Nadu government to provide security to theatres and moviegoers in the state.

A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, posted the matters for further hearing in July 2023, after the vacation. It was hearing the petition filed by the filmmakers against the ban in West Bengal and the alleged shadow ban in Tamil Nadu and petitions challenging the Kerala high court’s refusal to stay the screening of the film.

In the interim order, the court said that the decision of the West Bengal government to ban the movie prima facie suffers from overbreadth.

Also Read: ‘The Kerala Story’ Is a Propaganda Film That Thrives on Shock Value

The bench asked the producers to put a disclaimer for the claim that 32,000 women from Kerala were converted to Islam and recruited to join the terrorist organisation ISIS. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the producer, agreed to add a disclaimer that “there is no authentic data available to back up the suggestion that the figure of conversions is 32000 or any other established figure”. The disclaimer will be added by 5 pm on Saturday, May 20 and will say that the film represents a “fictionalised version of subject matter”.

Meanwhile, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan, appearing for the West Bengal police, said that the state cannot “turn a blind eye” to the “provocative messages” in the film and that it has to protect the interests of minorities, according to LiveLaw.

“If you’re making propaganda films and claiming that it is not fiction and it is a fact and saying that you’ve verified it, then the responsibility is very different than a pure fiction movie,” he added, referring to propaganda movies that helped Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Kapil Sibal, appearing for Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, said that dialogues in the film are worse and cited some offensive remarks. Lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi also cited certain portions which he said were problematic. “Don’t see it only from the perspective of physical violence, but also from the hate that is generated. It translates to other consequences, a person may not employ one from the community, may not rent out a house,” Ahmadi said, according to LiveLaw.

Qurban Ali, the petitioner who was challenging the CBFC certification, said his stand was vindicated as the demand for a disclaimer was accepted by the court. He said that the court may also watch the movie to decide if the CBFC’s certification should be revoked.