A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that it will consider the EC report and hear the matter on April 22.
The Supreme Court Monday directed the Election Commission to re-examine its earlier order and take an informed decision on banning pan-India release of the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after watching the full movie. The top court directed the poll panel to take a decision by April 19 and submit its report in a sealed cover to the court.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that it will consider the EC report and hear the matter on April 22. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for film producers who have challenged the EC’s ban on the biopic’s release till the current general elections are over, said the poll panel has taken the decision based just on watching the promo, not the entire movie. He suggested that the producers are willing to hold a special screening for the poll panel or its committee on Tuesday or Wednesday, so that they can take an informed decision by Friday.
To this, the bench asked EC’s counsel Amit Sharma, whether the poll panel has watched the movie or not. He said the entire movie was not available and a decision to ban the release was taken after watching the trailer. The bench then asked the poll panel to watch the full movie and then take an informed decision on whether its release should be banned or not.
At the outset, Rohatgi submitted that the EC had taken a call to ban the movie by watching a 2-minute promo. He said when the apex court had referred the matter to the poll panel, it had said that it cannot decide to ban the biopic on the basis of the trailer.
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, 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 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.
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 in this election season. Directed by Omung Kumar, it tells the story of Modi’s rise to power from his humble beginnings.
The apex court had on April 9, dismissed a petition filed by a Congress leader Aman Panwar seeking stay on the release of the biopic saying the Election Commission would be an “appropriate” place to seek the redressal. The apex court had said it was not entertaining the petition for the stay on the release of the film which would be “premature” in view of the fact that the movie is yet to be certified by the Censor Board. It said even if the film is released on April 11, as claimed by the Congress leader, it will be appropriate for him to seek a redressal from the Election Commission.