In a major setback to the makers of ‘PM Narendra Modi’, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition that challenged the Election Commission’s order banning the screening of PM Modi’s biopic until May 19. Notably, the apex court was hearing a plea submitted by the producers of PM Narendra Modi.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not inclined to entertain the application filed by producers of the biopic challenging the EC's order. During the hearing, the bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said, "What survives in this now?"
The counsel, appearing for film producers, told the bench that the EC's order is contrary to the clearance given to the movie by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). "The issue is whether the movie can be exhibited at this time. The Election Commission has taken a decision. We are not inclined to entertain this," the bench replied.
On April 22, the Election Commission had submitted a report to the Supreme Court and claimed that a public screening of the movie during the ongoing elections will “tilt the electoral balance”. A committee set up by the polling commission had watched the entire film and submitted the report.
In the report, the EC had said that the movie was a hagiography, which treats the subject with undue reverence. It had further noted that the biopic “produces a political environment where an individual acquired cult status” and public screening of the film when the Model Code of Conduct is in place would favour a particular political party. The report had also said that the screening of the movie should not be allowed till May 19, the last date of polling.
The 20-page report had cited a sentence from the film’s synopsis provided with the script: “India is Modi and Modi is India”. “This is reminiscent of the infamous statement by Congress leader DK Baruah, who had said ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’ in the 1970s,” it concluded.
The EC had on April 10 stalled the release of the film 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, had also directed the producers "not to exhibit the film titled 'PM Narendra Modi' till further orders". The film was earlier set to release on April 11.
Acting on the complaints of political parties, including the Congress, the poll panel had also said that any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate for the furtherance of electoral prospects, directly or indirectly, shall not be put on display in electronic media in the area where MCC is in force.
The Left had also opposed the release of the film, saying it would disturb the level-playing field for other parties in the election and was in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
The Modi biopic, starring Vivek Oberoi, has been the most-talked about movie this election season. Directed by Omung Kumar, “PM Narendra Modi” depicts the journey of Indian PM from his humble beginnings to becoming the Prime Minister of India. It also stars Boman Irani, Zarina Wahab, Darshan Kumaar and Manoj Joshi.
(With inputs from PTI)