In a rather interesting development in the legal proceedings against Sudipto Sen directed and Vipul Shah produced movie ‘The Kerala story’, the producers have agreed to take the teaser off its social media accounts.
The producers, however, took responsibility of taking it off its own social media handles indicating that the teaser could still be available on the internet for viewing. It is pertinent to note that, it was pointed out by many Twitter users a couple of days ago that the description of the teaser on YouTube had changed from 32,000 women to being a story inspired by lives of 3 women.
The Kerala high Court refused to pass any interim orders against the film and upheld artistic freedom as well as freedom of speech and expression and observed that, after viewing the teaser and trailer alone it cannot be said that one particular community was being targeted.
After much back and forth, the plea against the film “The Kerala Story” was heard on merits by the Kerala High Court today. On Tuesday the High Court had posted the matter for hearing today, which is the day of release of the movie. Taking their grievances to the Supreme Court, the petitioners pleaded that the court hear them. However, the apex court refused to do so and asked the petitioner to have the hearing before the high court.
Accordingly, the bench of Justice N. Nagaresh and Justice Sophy Thomas assembled for the hearing today. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for one of the petitioners submitted that the trailer and teaser are against the sovereignty and integrity of India and that it was a case of promoting enmity between religions. Justice Nagaresh pointed out that in the trailer people from certain religions are painted in bad light and this is not new since this has been shown before in many movies for many religions.
Senior Advocate George Poonthottam for another petitioner pleaded for recall of the certificate granted to the film by the Censor Board. He submitted that the teaser and trailer are different and the teaser claimed conversion of 32,000 women. The court then viewed the teaser and trailer in court. However, Justice Nagaresh commented, “Now tell me counsel, what is against Islam? There is no allegation against a religion, but only against the organization ISIS.” To this, Poonthottam said that the theme of the movie was that Kerala is the centre of all terrorist activity. The judge however, said that such things have been shown in many Malayalam movies and it cannot be said that the person shown in the trailer is playing the character of a cleric, when he asks some people to impregnate women and get them ready for a mission to ISIS.
Advocate Mohammad Shah also made submissions that the trailer attacks gods of other religions. Reference was made to the dialogue in the trailer where a Muslim girl is shown ridiculing Lord Shiva and says Allah is the only god that runs this world. Shah said, “Can I say your Lord is not a good God? I can say my God is good, but I cannot say your God is bad” to which Justice Nagaresh said, “But if someone says my God is the only God, wouldn’t all others be bad?”
Further Shah submitted how the impression was being created in the trailer, “Parents will think I cannot send my children to a hostel in which Muslim students also stay, they will get converted. That is the impression that they are creating here. Otherwise also, the entire atmosphere is poisonous, Your Lordships must stop it,” he said.
When Shah raised the objection to the movie claiming to tell a true story, Justice Nagaresh said that there is nothing against the Muslim community but only about ISIS. Shah then submitted that the movie causes disharmony between religions.
“Here they say that only the Hindu and Christian girls are being targeted and their parents should be careful. When they say it is a true story, what will be the mindset of the parents? They say after 20 years, Kerala will be Islamic State. This will cause disharmony,” Shah submitted.
Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj submitted, “This is a novel case where the Court is called upon to consider whether hate speech can be in the form of art.” He insisted that there should be some action on the teaser.
Senior Advocate Ravi Kadam appearing for the producers of the movie submitted that there is a disclaimer in the movie that it is a work of fiction and that it is ‘inspired by true events’.
Justice Nagaresh said, “It only says ‘inspired by true events’. There is something called freedom of speech and expression. They have artistic freedom, we have to balance that also.”
When Kadam raised a contention that how can they file an application before viewing the movie. The judge questioned the producers how they can make claims of conversion of 32,000 women. To this Kadam responded, “That was on the basis of the information we received. That was in the teaser. That will not be continued. Please record my submission. We will remove it from social media”
The court thus recorded the submission and observed that there was nothing in the teaser and trailer against an entire community. The court also noted that the Censor Board, a competent Authority, had passed the movie for publication too. The court was not inclined to pass any interim orders.
“In view of above, and taking into consideration the statement made by the producer/company that producer does not intend to retain the offending teaser in the social media handles, no further orders are required at this stage,” the court said, concluding the hearing.