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WB’s ‘The Kerala Story’ ban halted by SC; producer to include disclaimer on ‘conversions’ claim

The Supreme Court issued a stay on the West Bengal government’s order prohibiting the screening of the controversial film “The Kerala Story.” In addition, the Court instructed Tamil Nadu to ensure the safety of moviegoers following the decision by theater owners to halt the film’s screening due to security concerns.

The bench, consisting of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice P S Narasimha, and Justice J B Pardiwala, further directed the producer to include a disclaimer in the movie by 5 pm on May 20 regarding the claim that 32,000 Hindu and Christian women were converted to Islam. The disclaimer should state that there is no authenticated data to support the conversion figures and that the film presents a fictionalized version.

Before reaching a decision on the pleas challenging the grant of certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the bench expressed its desire to view the movie. The petitions will be heard in the second week of July. In its interim order, the bench observed that the West Bengal government’s decision appears to suffer from overbreadth.

The bench also took note of the submissions indicating that there was no ban on the film in Tamil Nadu and called upon the state government to ensure the safety and security of moviegoers. During the hearing, the bench emphasized that statutory provisions should not reward public intolerance.

The bench highlighted that it is the responsibility of the state government to maintain law and order since the film has obtained CBFC certification. It remarked that poorly made films fail at the box office.

The bench further stressed that legal provisions should not reward public intolerance, adding that otherwise, all films would face similar issues. Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the film’s producer, stated that states cannot question the grant of certification to the movie. Salve pointed out that no statutory appeal has been filed against the certification and referred to legal precedents to support his argument that the Supreme Court cannot review CBFC certification.

The Supreme Court heard opposing pleas: one from the film’s producer challenging the ban on its screening in West Bengal, and another from journalist Qurban Ali challenging the Kerala High Court’s decision to deny a stay on the film’s release.

“The Kerala Story” was released in cinemas on May 5 and is directed by Sudipto Sen. The film claims that women from Kerala were coerced into converting to Islam and recruited by the Islamic State (IS).


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