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TN Govt. cant ban movie, dist. say

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Chennai (UNI): Counsel for distributors of the movie The Da Vinci Code today said the state government could not pass an order suspending exhibition of the film once the Central Board of Film Certification certified it for public exhibition under the Cinematography Act. When the case against the order banning the film came up for hearing at Madras High Court here, Senior Counsel A L Somiyaji, representing Sony Pictures and Anuroshni Films, said the state could not pass the order saying it could affect public peace and tranquility.

Mr Somiyaji submitted before Ms Justice Prabha Sridevan that the government could not take away the fundamental right of freedom of expression of the petitioner, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution, by passing an executive order based on conjecture and surmise. The reasons in the order were arbitrary. Once the Censor Board certified the film after giving due consideration to public order, it was not open to the state to pass the impugned order. If permitted, it would amount to the state sitting in judgement over an expert body, he contended.

The distributors challenged the Commissioner of Police's order dated June one, 2006 suspending screening the film in Tamil Nadu for two months. The reason given, that people belonging to a particular community might agitate could not be grounds to take away the right of the petitioner, he said. There was no scope at all for apprehending violence or agitation as even before certification, the film was screened before religious heads and their views were conveyed to the concerned Union Minister, who incorporated the disclaimer they suggested. Also, the Supreme Court had dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which sought to withdraw the certification.

The movie is based on a novel, which had sold 16.5 million copies. Three lakh copies were sold in India. In Kerala, where there were more Christians, nobody raised objections and 5,000 copies were sold. The film was based on the book and was a work of fiction. The Commissioner failed to consider these aspects before passing the order. If somebody viewed it from a different angle, it could not be a ground to pass such an order, he added.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General V T Gopalan submitted the Police Commissioner's order had been forwarded to the Union Government which was now seized of the matter. However, even before the Centre could confirm or reject the order, the petitioner had approached the court. Additional Advocate General P S Raman, appearing for the state, sought a day's time to file a counter following which the judge adjourned further hearing to tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Christian Renaissance Movement, represented by its President A Arokiadoss, filed a petition seeking to implead itself in the case, supporting the state government's order.

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