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“Why should you not allow it to run?” SC seeks response from West Bengal over state-wide ban on ‘The Kerala Story’

The Supreme Court of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the West Bengal government on the plea of the makers of the movie, ‘The Kerala Story’, challenging the decision of the Mamata Banerjee government to ban the screening of the movie in the State.

Supreme Court also issued notice to Tamil Nadu on a de-facto ban on the movie in the State. Supreme Court sought a response from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu governments and posted the hearing of the plea on Monday.

“The movie is being exhibited all over the country, why should West Bengal ban the movie, why should you not allow it to run? The film is running in different parts of country with similar demographic profiles. This has nothing to do with the cinematic value of the movie, it may be good or bad,” Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said.

The West Bengal government in a notification, last week, said that the movie ‘The Kerala Story’ is “likely to cause a breach of peace” and that it has prohibited the screening of the film to avoid “any incident of hatred or violence to maintain law and order in the state”.

West Bengal was the first state to ban the film, which narrates the ordeal of three women who are trafficked to ISIS camps after being converted to Islam through marriage.

On the decision to ban the film, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “It is to avoid any incident of hatred and violence, and maintain peace in the state.”

Also raking up the ‘Kashmir Files’, a film on the alleged genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, which ran to packed houses despite evoking protests from the Opposition, the Bengal CM said, “What was ‘The Kashmir Files’? It was meant purely to humiliate a particular section of society. What is ‘The Kerala Story’? It is a distorted story.”

The CM directed the state chief secretary to remove the movie from all theatres where it is being screened.

Reacting to the ban, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, the producer of the film, said they will pursue legal options against the decision.

“If state government won’t listen to us, we will explore legal avenues. However, whatever course we take will be based on legal advice,” Shah had told ANI.

Helmed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, the film evoked sharp opposition from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who called it “RSS propaganda”. Congress MP from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor accused the makers of “misrepresenting” Kerala.

Campaigning for the BJP in poll-bound Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, weighed in on the controversy, accusing the Congress of standing with terrorists.

‘The Kerala Story’ stars Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Siddhi Idnani and Sonia Balani in lead roles.

A massive controversy erupted around the film after its trailer claimed that 32,000 women from Kerala had gone missing and joined the terrorist group ISIS. However, in the face of protests, the contentious figure in the trailer was later withdrawn.

Its trailer description was later changed to a story of three women from Kerala.