Modi Biopic: Supreme Court directs Election Commission to watch full movie, submit report in sealed cover

Modi Biopic: Supreme Court directs Election Commission to watch full movie, submit report in sealed cover

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court today asked the Election Commission to watch the biopic on Prime minister Narendra Modi and submit a report in a sealed cover on whether to put the movie on hold till the Lok Sabha elections are over.

The order was passed by a Bench of Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna in a petition filed by the producers of the movie challenging the decision of the EC.

The order effectively means that the EC will have to take a fresh decision on the release of Modi Biopic.

The EC had passed an order last week banning “political content” that serves the interests of any political entity or is likely to disturb the level playing field during elections.

The order had stated,

“Such ‘political contents’ poses a serious threat to the level playing field as it may create an impression of truthfulness of such content being shown through Television/Cinema/Internat based entertainment programs/social media. And therefore, it is in larger interest of ensuring the level playing field and conduct of free and fair elections that such political content ought to be regulated during the election period to prevent violation of Model Code of Conduct.”

It had issued the following directions:

  • Biopic material serving the interests of any political entity or having the potential to disturb the level playing filled during elections cannot be displayed
  • Posters, publicity material etc. concerning such content should not be displayed, either in print or electronic media.

This order has been challenged in Supreme Court by the producers of the film. The petitioners have contended that the EC could not have interfered with the film even before its release.

It is the role of Central board of Film Certification (CBFC) to certify the film. Once the film is certified by the CBFC, the Election Commission cannot encroach upon the authority of the CBFC.

“The power of certification is solely under the purview of CBFC, and the role of Election Commission would only start after the release of the film.”

Further, the petitioner has stated that while the CBFC has granted “U certificate” to the film after watching the film in its entirety, the Election Commission took its decision without watching the movie and only on the basis of a two-minute trailer.

It is against all tenets of law and principles established by the Supreme Court that one body can take over the work of another statutory body, the petition states.

The Court after hearing the petitioner today asked the EC to watch the movie in entirety and submit a report to the Court in a sealed cover on Friday on whether the movie can be screened or not.

“We are informed at the Bar that the Election Commission or its representative(s) had no occasion to watch the movie or a substantial part of it and the impugned order has been passed upon viewing the short duration trailer. Without commenting on merits of the order of the Election Commission, at this stage, we would like the Election Commission or its authorised representative to view the movie and thereafter consider the matter of public screening of the movie once again.

We request the Election Commission to finalise its decision in terms of the above by Friday (19.04.2019) and inform the result to the Court in a sealed cover.”

The matter will be taken up for hearing next on April 22.

Parinam Law Associates is representing the producers of the film and the AOR is Malvika Kapila Kalra.

Read the petition and order below. 

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news