The Supreme Court on today (18 May) stayed the West Bengal government's order that prohibited the screening of the film The Kerala Story within the state.
The court reasoned that the state's decision suffered from "overbreadth".
Acknowledging that there was no ban on the film in Tamil Nadu, the court directed the state to ensure the safety and security of moviegoers.
Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud indicated that the judges might watch the film during their vacation and would intervene if necessary.
The court explicitly stated, "We intend to stay the order of the State of West Bengal. With respect to Tamil Nadu, we will direct them to not directly or indirectly ban it."
Responding to the petitioners' complaint regarding the alleged false claim in the movie that 32,000 girls were converted, the court instructed the producer of The Kerala Story to include a disclaimer stating that there is "no authentic data to back up the suggestion that the figure of conversion is 32,000 or any other established figure."
Additionally, the disclaimer should clarify that the "film represents a fictionalized account of the events which is the subject matter."
The Supreme Court emphasised that the law should not be used to put a premium on public intolerance, as it would lead to a situation where all films could face similar challenges.
The court stated that it would hear pleas challenging the grant of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to the movie in the second week of July.
The movie's producer informed the court that no statutory appeal has been filed against the certification.
On 12 May, the Supreme Court had sought responses from the West Bengal and Tamil Nadu governments regarding the producers' plea that the movie was not being screened in theatres in these states.
While West Bengal imposed a ban on the film after it had been screened for three days, Tamil Nadu did not officially ban it, but exhibitors withdrew it from cinema halls due to security concerns.
The court requested the Tamil Nadu government to specify the measures taken to provide adequate security for theatres screening the film.
In response to the Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari's statement that there was no ban on the movie in the state, the Supreme Court remarked, "The State Government cannot say that it will look the other way when theatres are attacked and chairs are being burnt."
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