The Election Commission on Wednesday stalled the release of a film on Prime Minister Narendra Modi until the polls end, asserting that any biopic material with the potential to disturb the level-playing field during elections should not be displayed.
The commission, in a separate order, also directed the producers "not to exhibit the film titled 'PM Narendra Modi' till further orders.
The film was set to release on April 11.
Acting on the complaints of political parties, including the Congress, the poll panel also said that any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate (including prospective) for the furtherance (or purported to further) of electoral prospects, directly or indirectly, shall not be put on display in electronic media in the area where MCC is in force.
Apart from the Congress, the Left had opposed the release of the film based on the life of Modi, saying it would disturb the level-playing field for other parties in the election and was in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
"Any biopic material in the nature of biography/hagiogmphy sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it, which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field, timing the elections should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the operation of MCC," the EC ordered.
In their order, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra also announced that the Commission will set up a committee, headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired chief justice of any high court.
In any cinematograph material, certified by the appropriate authority, if there exists such a violation or on receipt of a complaint in this regard, the committee, will examine the same and suggest appropriate action, the EC added.
The poll panel pointed out that so far, it has received complaints about certain films such as 'NTR Laxmi', 'PM Narendra Modi' and 'Udyam Simham', "which are claimed to either dimnish or advance the electoral prospects of a candidate or a political party in the garb of creative freedom".
"It is claimed that such creative contents are kind of surrogate publicity by the candidate or the political party during the period of model code. Though the display materials claim to be part of creative content, it is contended that these have propensity and potentiality to affect the level playing field which is not in consonance with the provisions of the model code of conduct," the EC noted.
The copy of the order was also sent to the Central Board of Film Certification chairman and Secretary, Information and Broadcasting ministry.
The commission's order on the biopic came a day before it was to be released, coinciding with the first phase of Lok Sabha elections.
The order specifically stated that in view of the admitted acts and material available on record, this film being a biopic on Narendra Modi, "prime minister and a political leader and a prospective candidate in the current general elections" can not be exhibited in view of Commission's order.
The Modi biopic, starring Vivek Oberoi has been the most-talked about movie in this election season.
Directed by Omung Kumar, it tells the story of PM Modi's rise to power from his humble beginnings.
The Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by a Congress activist seeking a stay on the release of the biopic, and said the EC would be an "appropriate" place to seek the redressal.
The Central Board of Film Certification also issued an advisory to the producers of the film, asking them to comply with the EC's direction.