The MK Stalin-led Tamil Nadu Government has filed a counter affidavit with the Supreme Court of India, refuting claims of The Kerala Story’s makers in a plea challenging the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal Government’s decision to ban the movie and claiming that the movie is facing a ‘shadow ban’ in Tamil Nadu and sought protection for screening the movie.
The Tamil Nadu Government’s affidavit submits that the movie was released in 19 multiplexes in the state on its release date, May 5. Furthermore, the government submitted that there was no order to ban the movie’s screening in the state and that all steps have been taken to safeguard the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
As per the affidavit, the multiplex owners decided to stop screening the movie from May 7 in view of “the criticism received by it/ lack of well-known actors/poor performance/Poor audience response.” The government also said that it has no control over the decisions of multiplex owners and claimed that the makers are pursuing the plea to get publicity for their movies and therefore, misusing the process of the court.
Furthermore, the affidavit read that the state intelligence issued alerts to police officials to keep a close vigil on the law and order situation in the state. The affidavit read, “The state intelligence issued alerts to the superintendents of police in districts and commissioners of police in the cities for keeping a close vigil on the law and order situation in the state, and ensuring maintenance of the same in the wake of the scheduled release of the film.”
The affidavit submits that the movie was criticised for spreading ‘anti-Muslim hate’ and that the multiplex owners halted the movie’s release at their own discretion. Furthermore, the affidavit referred to the “demonstrations, agitation and picketing” staged in 19 places, by various Muslim organisations, against the movie’s screening and submitted that the government provided adequate police protection for the movie’s screening.
The Tamil Nadu Government has contended that the movie’s makers moved the court with “malafide intentions” seeking publicity for the movie and therefore, have made “false and sweeping allegations” for the same reason.
Earlier, the Supreme Court issued notices to West Bengal and Tamil Nadu Governments in the writ petition filed by the makers of ‘The Kerala Story’ challenging the Mamata Banerjee Government’s decision to ban the movie. Furthermore, the makers alleged that the movie is facing a ‘shadow ban’ in Tamil Nadu and have sought protection for screening the movie.
The movie maker’s counsel Senior Advocate Harish Salve submitted that the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made statements against the movie on the release date, alleging that the movie is against a community and its exhibition can cause law and order problems. Furthermore, he submitted that the movie ran in the state without problems for three days before the West Bengal Government banned the movie. He also submitted that the movie is facing a ‘shadow ban’ in Tamil Nadu after the exhibitors withdrew the movie after facing threats.
The West Bengal Government’s counsel Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted that the makers should approach the respective High Court, as the Supreme Court asked the parties in earlier cases to do the same and maintain discipline. Furthermore, he claimed that there are intelligence reports regarding the law and order problems concerning the movie.
The Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud remarked, “The film is released in the rest of the country. West Bengal is not different from other parts of the Country. If it can run on other parts of the country, why should the State of West Bengal ban the film? If the public does not think that the film is not worth seeing, they will not see it. It is running in other parts of the country which have similar demographic profile as West Bengal. Why should you not allow a film to run?”
The West Bengal Government’s counsel submitted that the government has the power to ban the movie u/s 6 of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1954 while opposing the grant of stay. The CJI said that the Supreme Court would not pass interim order without hearing the State Government.
The CJI asked the MK Stalin Government’s counsel Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari, “We would like to know from you, what are the specific administrative arrangements to ensure safety. The state government cannot say that we’ll look the other way while theatres are being attacked, chairs being burnt. You are duty bound to ensure security.” Furthermore, the Court asked the Tamil Nadu Government to file an affidavit in the case.
‘The Kerala Story’, stars Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, and Siddhi Idnani in the lead roles. The film is produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and directed by Sudipto Sen. In the film, actress Adah Sharma plays the role of Fathima Ba, a Hindu Malayali nurse who went missing from Kerala and was recruited by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) after being forced to convert to Islam.