The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the screening of the propaganda film, The Kerala Story, in West Bengal with a disclaimer that ‘there is no authentic data to back up that the figure of conversion stands at 32,000’ and the film was ‘a fictionalised version of events.’
The Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala also said that while the top court was there to defend the right to free speech, no one was allowed to vilify a community.
“As much as we protect free speech you cannot vilify a community,” CJI Chandrachud said.
Representing the filmmakers, lawyer Harish Salve said that the ‘art has to be provocative and so has been held by this very court and this court has always maintained that it is state who has to maintain law and order and that cannot be the reason to pull off the film.’
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was representing the Bengal government, said, “This is a public order power and a preventive power… the movie ran from may 5 to may 8.. we did not stop. there was no threshold prohibition… all cases cited are before the screening done.. now we will show you intelligence reports… Ms Vrinda Grover even asked for a disclaimer that it is not based on any real or true story… I cannot use my statutory power to prevent a future breach of peace. I say run with declaration that it is a work of fiction.”
Dr AM Singhvi appears for WB and Sr Adv Gopal S appears for West Bengal police: one para of the judgment he did not read was para 49.. I will go in reverse order… do not have a public exhibition of public emotions
CJI: But it is your duty to maintain law and order.. there is a…
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 18, 2023
The top court said that it was the state government’s responsibility to maintain law and order.
The propaganda film, which aims to vilify the Muslim community in India has polarised Hindu sentiments in India by promoting hate speech. The film has been produced by Vipul Shah, who hails from Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Both Shah and the film’s director, Sudipto Sen, have been speaking like BJP spokespersons by accusing Muslims living in certain parts of Kerala of being involved in terrorist activities. This has prompted many to wonder if the real motive behind the propaganda film was to vilify India’s Muslim community.