The State of Tamil Nadu has filed a counter affidavit before the Supreme Court in the plea filed by the producers of the movie 'The Kerala Story', refuting allegations that the movie has been shadowbanned in the state. The affidavit filed by the Additional Director General of Police (Law and Oder), Tamil Nadu also raises a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the petition on the ground that the petitioners did not exhaust remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution.

In its counter affidavit, the State has submitted that the Petitioners have made deliberate false statement that the State of Tamil Nadu has sought to prevent the public exhibition of the film despite orders of the High Court, and have also made deliberate misleading statements that the State has brought about a “shadow or implicit ban” on the screening of the Film by halting screening in theatres, not permitting full release of the film and informally signalling the theatre owners that State will not support in case of any untoward incident.

Terming the allegations by the Petitioner as baseless, the State has contended that the Petitioner has failed to produce any material to canvass that there was any action taken by the State to prevent the public exhibition of the film in any way. It has been submitted that in the garb of seeking undue benefit of extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 32, the Petitioner has made these false and misleading statements.

Refuting allegations that it has imposed a shadow ban on the film, the State submitted that if such a ban on the screening of the film would have been imposed, then the film would not have been released in nineteen multiplexes since the date of its release i.e., May 05, 2023.

While contending that the State of Tamil Nadu has taken adequate security measures such as deploying police personnel, keeping a close vigil on law-and-order situation, and issuing an “alert” so that the film screening can go on unhindered by protests, it has submitted that this act was done to safeguard the fundamental right of the Petitioner by ensuring that a duly certified film can be publicly exhibited without any hindrances.

It is further argued that the decision of the multiplex owners to stop screening the film after two days of its release was their own decision backed by the criticism received from the audience and the State had no role to play in the same.

Claiming that the Petitioner had attempted to shift the burden of disproving their bald allegations, the State submitted that they are trying to gain publicity for their film under the garb of this petition and had misused the processes of the Apex Court.

It is canvassed that despite the bland statement given by the Petitioner that the State of Tamil Nadu is effectuating a “heckler’s veto”, the State had issued alerts to the Police Department to facilitate and ensure the smooth release and public exhibition of the Film and prevent any potential harm to the owners of theatres and multiplexes, and their properties, since some Muslim organizations had criticized the film for spreading anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia among the common public.

While stating that the State has effectuated meaningful exercise of the right of the Petitioners to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, it is argued that State has not imposed any ban, nor has it posed any obstruction to the unhindered exhibition of the film.

The producers of the movie have challenged the order passed by the state of West Bengal banning the exhibition of the movie in the state along with the alleged de facto ban in the state of Tamil Nadu. The ban in West Bengal has also been challenged in a PIL filed by one Puneet Kaur Bajwa. The PIL says that every citizen of the country has the right to know what all is going on in our Country.

The Kerala High Court had on May 5, 2023, refused to pass any interim order on pleas against the release of the movie "The Kerala Story". The Court recorded the statement of the producers of the movie that the statement about 32000 women from Kerala converting or joining ISIS will be removed from the teaser and trailer of the movie and also from the social media handles of the movie makers.

Cause Title: Sunshine Pictures Pvt. Ltd. v. Union Of India [W.P.(C) No. 552/2023]