Delhi, May 18: The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the ban imposed by the West Bengal government on the movie ‘The Kerala Story’ on Thursday. The court also instructed the filmmakers to include a disclaimer stating that the film is a work of fiction and lacks factual evidence supporting its claim that 32,000 women in Kerala were coerced into converting to Islam and joining ISIS.
A panel of judges headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud emphasized that the state government must uphold law and order since the film has received certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
“Based on the available material, we believe that the prohibition imposed by West Bengal is not justified. Therefore, the ban on the film is stayed,” ordered the court.
The court mandated that the disclaimer, clarifying that “there is no verified data substantiating the claim on the conversion figures and that the film is a work of fiction,” be added by 5 pm on Saturday.
The court also urged Tamil Nadu to ensure the safety of moviegoers, noting that although the state had not banned the film, theater owners had decided to halt its screening due to security concerns.
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Regarding a petition challenging the CBFC’s certification of the film, the court announced that it would be taken up in July after the court’s summer vacation, as the judges needed to watch the movie first.
Highlighting the fact that “bad films fail at the box office,” the court expressed that “legal provisions cannot be utilized to fuel public intolerance, otherwise all films would face similar situations.”
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the film’s producer, argued that states cannot challenge the certification granted to a movie. However, he agreed to incorporate the disclaimer regarding the fictional nature of the depiction.
The Supreme Court heard counter-pleas in which the film’s producer challenged the ban on its screening in West Bengal and the decision of Tamil Nadu theater owners to abstain from showing the movie. Journalist Qurban Ali also challenged the Kerala High Court’s ruling, which refused to halt the film’s release.
Directed by Sudipto Sen, ‘The Kerala Story’ was released in cinemas on May 5 and immediately stirred controversy with its allegation that thousands of women in Kerala were forcibly converted to Islam and joined ISIS. Critics have pointed out the lack of evidence supporting these claims.
Opposition parties have accused the film of perpetuating stereotypes and inciting communal hatred. However, it has received support from various BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh has even waived the tax on tickets for the film.