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Cannot pass order on PM biopic at this stage: SC

Last updated on: April 08, 2019 23:07 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday said it cannot pass an order at this stage on a plea seeking stay on the release of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biopic as the censor board is yet to certify the film.

The apex court said it will hear the matter on Tuesday and could possibly pass an order if the petitioner brings on record what the film depicts is "highly objectionable".

"Any kind of order from the court will be possible if the petitioner states and pleads what the film is seeking to depict and his objections on this count," said the order by a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The bench also refused the plea of the petitioner, Congress activist Aman Panwar, that the copy of the film should be given to him.

 

"Why should we direct that individual be given a copy of the film," said the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

"On behalf of the petitioner, a prayer has been made that directions should be issued for furnishing a copy of the film to enable the petitioner to act in terms of the order. We fail to see how such a direction can be issued by the court," it said.

At the outset, the CJI said the film is not yet certified and referred to April 4 statement by Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Prasoon Joshi.

Joshi had said that the film was undergoing due process of examination and certification.

"Since there are a lot of queries around the certification of the film, (I) would like to give a clear picture: the film is going through the due process of examination and certification according to the requisite guidelines and is yet to be certified as the process is not complete at this point," Joshi had said.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the Congress activist, said producer Sandip Singh had come out with a statement that the biopic would be released on April 11.

Taking note of his submission, the bench said the producer may have come out with such a statement on release of the biopic on April 11 anticipating that the film would get the certification from the censor board.

The bench said as of now there is no cause of action for challenging the film's release.

When Singhvi repeated for further stay on the biopic, the bench said, "How can we stop the release of the film? It is not yet certified. There is only a statement from the producer for its release."

Singhvi submitted that there was no level playing field and allowing the release of the film would be a direct assault on the structure of the Constitution.

However, the bench said it cannot decide on the grievances raised by the petitioner as it did not know what was there in the film.

Singhvi also submitted that the judges themselves can see the film in advance to decide the matter.

He said the lead actor, Vivek Oberoi, has been named as the star campaigner for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. His father, who was also an actor, is a card holder of the BJP.

"You have the power to call for the screening of the movie," the senior advocate told the bench.

"The film has considerable ramifications as it would be screened for the coming 40 days across the country," he said.

The plea has sought deferment of the biopic's release till the completion of the coming Lok Sabha polls, alleging that it was designed to "manipulate, influence and impress viewers and voters".

Titled 'PM Narendra Modi', the biopic which was slated to be released on April 5, has been postponed till further notice, Singh said Thursday.

The plea has sought a direction from the court declaring that advertisement and promotion of the film during the operation of the model code of conduct violates electoral laws.

It has sought directions to the Centre, CBFC and the Election Commission to delay its release till the completion of the general elections next month.

The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh high court had earlier rejected a plea seeking ban on the release. The Bombay High Court had also disposed of a plea seeking deferment of the biopic's release, saying the EC will deal with the issue.

"The film was driven by no artistic inspiration and was instead designed to manipulate, influence and impress viewers and voters in the upcoming elections," the plea has said.

It said there were several facts which demonstrated that the film was not an innocuous work of art, despite the repeated statements of the producers, the director and the lead actor to the contrary.

It said Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis released the first poster of the biopic and BJP president Amit Shah was also scheduled to release other similar promotional materials of the film.

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