The Supreme Court today issued notice to the State of West Bengal and asked the State of Tamil Nadu to file a short reply to the plea by the producers of the multilingual film 'The Kerala Story' challenging the West Bengal government's ban on screening of the movie. The producers have alleged that there is a 'defacto ban' on the film in Tamil Nadu.

The Bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha issued the notice to the State of West Bengal returnable by May 17, 202 and orally observed that the "Film has been released in the rest of the country, West Bengal is no different than any other part of the country, if it can run in peace in other parts of the country then why should the State of West Bengal ban the film." The Court also remarked that "if the public thinks it isn't worth seeing the film it will not see."

Appearing for the film producer, Senior Advocate Harish Salve submitted, "Lordships see that on the 5th of May, the movie is released in the State of West Bengal, there is a speech by the Chief Minister saying this movie is portraying the community in a bad light and there is likely to be a problem in the State. Then comes an order that it is brought to the notice of the state government that public exhibition is likely to cause a breach of peace and then to avoid any incident of hatred and violence, therefore, the film is prohibited and in the entire State of West Bengal, this order will take immediate effect."

Salve further added that "so many of these orders have been set aside by your lordships. There are 2 reliefs, one is against State of West Bengal and other is against Tamil Nadu". He clarified that in the State of Tamil Nadu, there is a de facto ban. Continuing, he said that "there are 2 sets of allegations, one where we seek relief of quashing of the order that is for West Bengal, and against Tamil Nadu we have made averments that the movie started, first few theatres dropped off then all the others dropped off, threats are being received."

Salve urged the Court that for the State of Tamil Nadu "we seek usual direction which your lordship has given in a number of cases saying that the State will make sure that adequate security arrangements are being made." The Bench responded,"We will issue a notice, a short notice to the state of West Bengal here."

Appearing for the State of West Bengal, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that "I want to point out that lordships have said for all these identical matters, the same movie that you should approach the High Court." Continuing Singhvi stated that "the first point, is discipline should be maintained, by diverse people these matters came up, lordships said to go to the High Court. There is no reason why Mr Salve's client cannot go there. Second, Lordships should maintain the discipline of the earlier 2 orders."

Singhvi further said, "Allow us to put on record that we received a huge number of intelligence reports, those reports show two things: breach of public order and grave apprehension of peace being preached." He also added that "It ran for three days and Lordship judgement say you are banning without seeing it but we ran it for three days and then received the reports".

The Counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu told the Court that "We have not banned the movie. Kindly look at the averments. It won't be required to issue notice to us."

The Chief Justice considering the submissions made responded that "It is running in different parts of the country which have a similar demographic profile as the State of West Bengal. Why should you not allow a film to run? This has nothing to do with the artistic value of the film. It may be good or bad, but it is irrelevant to their rights." The Bench issued notice and kept the matter for Wednesday. The CJI also added that "we are not granting a stay without granting you an opportunity to file a counter. You are entitled to file your defence."

On the submissions of the State of Tamil Nadu, the Court observed that there is Law and Order problem and asked the State to file a short note. When the Court directed for the matter to be taken up on Wednesday after the weekend holidays, Senior Advocate Harish Salve on the lighter side added that "for us, it is alright for the movie the non-working days are more important than the working days".

The plea by the producers of the multilingual film 'The Kerala Story' is filed against the West Bengal government's ban on screening of the movie and the makers said that they are "losing money every day". Senior Advocate Harish Salve had mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha.

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