the kerala story

Supreme Court: While hearing a batch of Petitions against the Order of the State of West Bengal, Kerala High Court and Madras High Court regarding the Kerala Story (‘film’) row, the three-Judge Bench comprising of Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, P.S Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, JJ., stayed the West Bengal Government’s Order prohibiting the exhibition of the film. The Bench said that the order suffered from over breadth.


The Kerala Story, a Hindi film about young girls from various regions of Kerala who were compelled to join ISIS, the terrorist group, faced backlash from all over India before and after its release on 05-05-2023. Several writ petitions were filed against the screening of the film before the Kerala High Court and Madras High Court. However, the writ petitions were rejected.

The Government of West Bengal had imposed a ban on the screening of the film on 08-5-2023 in the State on account that public exhibition of the film can cause breach of peace and spread hatred and violence.

The said orders of the High Courts refusing the ban on the film and Government of West Bengal’s order for putting a State-wide ban were challenged before the Court in different petitions.

Court’s Order

The Court noted that the State of West Bengal had prohibited the exhibition of the film to maintain peace and law and order by passing an Order under Sections 6(1) read with proviso to Section 4 of the West Bengal Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1954. The Court said that prima facie, the prohibition imposed by the State suffered from over breadth and the statutory requirements for the imposition of such a prohibition were not fulfilled.

Thus, the said Order of the Additional Secretary, Department of Information and Cultural Affairs, Government of West Bengal was stayed by the Court.

While recording the counter affidavit filed by the State of Tamil Nadu, wherein it was stated that the screening of the film was not directly or indirectly prohibited within the State, the Court issued following directions:

  1. adequate security must be provided to every cinema hall displaying the film and requisite arrangements shall be made to ensure the safety of movie goers who wish to see the film in any theatre where the movie is displayed; and

  2. no steps whatsoever, whether tacit or express, formal or informal, shall be taken by the State of Tamil Nadu or by any of its officers or instrumentalities including the police to prevent the screening of the film.

Regarding the petitions against the orders of Kerala High Court and Madras High Court, wherein the petitions against the screening of the film were rejected, the Court deferred the hearings of these petitions to the second week of July 2023, after the summer vacations.

[Sunshine Pictures Pvt. Ltd v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 678, Order Dated: 18-05-2023]

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