The Supreme Court on Thursday directed Tamil Nadu government to give an opportunity of hearing to producer-director Sohan Roy who has challenged the State’s decision to ban the screening of his film ‘Dam 999’

A bench of justices A K Ganguly and J S Khehar said the State Home Secretary shall give the hearing to Mr. Roy and his counsel at Chennai on December 12 and thereafter pass a “reasoned” order on the issue by December 16.

The apex court told counsel Krishan Venugopal that if the filmmaker was not satisfied with the order of the Home Secretary he was at liberty to seek alternative legal remedy.

Tamil Nadu’s Additional Advocate General Gurukrishna Kumar and counsel Srikala told the bench that Mr. Roy was earlier given an opportunity to be heard but he had declined the same on the ground that his petition was pending in the apex court.

The filmmaker, in his petition, questioned the subjective satisfaction of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on whose directions the order of ban dated November 24 was passed.

Alleging the decision was based on “narrow political objectives”, he said the order had no constitutional basis, much less legal basis.

He said the State suspended the screening of the movie without hearing him or affording him an opportunity for clarification.

The “arbitrary, unilateral and unjustified act” violated the petitioner’s fundamental right to freedom guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a), contended the petition.

“The fundamental right to freedom can be reasonably restricted only for the purpose mentioned in Article 19(2).

The restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not on the quicksand of convenience of political expediency,” Mr. Roy had stated in his petition.

The petitioner pleaded that nowhere did the film say it was about Mullaperiyar dam and even an indirect mention of a water-sharing contract between the two neighbouring states was deleted as per the request of the censor board.

According to Mr. Roy, the contents of the film “spreads the message about the consequences of dam disasters around the world.”

Further, “navarasa, or nine human emotions, are shown by nine characters. Just as a dam holds water, the nine characters hold back their emotion, which eventually breaks out during a disaster, drawing the audience to a gripping climax, he said.

“In short, the movie revolves round a dam, the number 9, navarasas , Navagrahas, 9 characters with 9 assorted tunes, 9 forms of lost love and the cultural heritage of India. The number 9 has an important role in the movie and hence the name Dam 999 ,” the petition said.

The filmmaker said the authorities had neither watched the movie nor read the script before banning the same and their action amounted to pre-censorship which was liable to be quashed.