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‘Market will decide’ — SC, Madras HC refuse to stay release of ‘The Kerala Story’

Controversial film, to be released Friday, claims to depict alleged conversion & recruitment of women in Kerala by ISIS. SC cites CBFC approval, Kerala HC's refusal to issue stay.

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New Delhi: Both the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court Thursday declined to put on hold the release of the controversial film The Kerala Story, which claims to depict the alleged recruitment and conversion of non-Muslim women in Kerala by terror outfit ISIS. The film is scheduled to be released Friday.

“You must think of the actors, producer. They have put all their labour. You must be very careful about staying films. The market will decide if it is not up to the mark,” a bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud observed.

The Supreme Court refused to issue any directions on a petition to withhold the film’s release. This occurred when senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi mentioned the matter before CJI Chandrachud’s bench, also comprising justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala.

Ahmadi sought the court’s indulgence to hear the petition filed by his client, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, a body of Muslim clerics.

He said he had been forced to approach the Supreme Court  because the Kerala High Court did not constitute a bench Thursday — despite the top court Wednesday allowing him to seek an urgent hearing there before the film’s scheduled release date, 5 May.

While giving this liberty to the petitioner Wednesday, the top court had disposed of the petition, which was filed directly before it under Article 32 of the Constitution.

As directed by the SC, the petitioner moved the Kerala HC. A letter was also sent to the acting chief justice of the Kerala High Court, who in turn said a bench had been constituted, Ahmadi submitted before the SC.

But the bench to which the case was allotted did not hold a sitting Thursday morning. Moreover, the petitioner was told that the Kerala HC was on summer vacation, added Ahmadi. 

When Ahmadi made his submission, a lawyer from the opposite party drew the bench’s attention to a two-day-old order of the Kerala HC, declining to issue an interim stay on the movie’s release. This, he added, was in view of the certification granted to the film by the Central Board of Film Certification.

At this, the CJI declined to intervene and observed, “The bench (of HC) has applied its mind. Look at it from the perspective of the film producer. How many times will this be challenged?”

Advising the petitioner to go back to the HC, the CJI said that a “contrived urgency” had been created as the petitioner did not seek the proper remedy at the right time. 

He pointed out that the petitioner had initially filed an “interlocutory application” in a pending matter related to hate speech. When this was turned down, a fresh petition was filed to ban the release.

Persistent requests by Ahmadi did not move the bench, which advised him to move the Kerala HC Friday morning to convince the court there.

“The CBFC has approved the movie. The Kerala High Court has refused to stay the movie. Yesterday, we declined to entertain the Article 32 petition. Now at this stage, we cannot entertain the matter,” the CJI said, refusing to direct the HC to take up the issue at a particular time.

Madras HC dismisses PIL

Later, the Madras High Court dismissed a PIL by a Chennai-based journalist, who claimed that The Kerala Story would affect the country’s sovereignty and unity, causing a disturbance to the public order. The petitioner, B.R. Aravindakshan, contended the film was an intentional attempt to portray Kerala as a terrorist-supporting state.

However, the bench rejected the petitioner’s contention, asking how he could assume that the film would create a law-and-order problem without watching it.

“Why are you coming so late? If you had come earlier, we would have asked someone to watch the movie and decide,” a bench of justices A.D. Jagadish Chandira and C. Saravanan told the petitioner.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story isn’t ‘true’ – it’s steeped in damned lies & outrageous stats


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