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SC agrees to hear plea challenging release of Modi biopic

The plea maintains that releasing the movie when the Model Code of Conduct is in place will amount to its violation

April 04, 2019 11:54 am | Updated 10:44 pm IST - New Delhi

A poster of the film starring Vivek Oberoi as Narendra Modi

A poster of the film starring Vivek Oberoi as Narendra Modi

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to urgently hear a plea claiming that a movie titled PM Narendra Modi is blatant propaganda with little or no artistic inspiration and meant to manipulate voters in violation of the Model Code of Conduct in place for the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.

A Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde agreed to hear the petition filed by advocate and Congress party spokesperson, Aman Panwar, on April 8.

Asked by the Bench why the petitioner chose to directly approach the Supreme Court, the petitioner related how the Congress party had approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) on March 23 but was met with ‘radio silence.’ Besides, two high courts, in Delhi and Mumbai , have already refused to entertain similar petitions.

Mr. Panwar said the movie was not an innocuous work of art as repeatedly claimed by the producers, the director and lead actor, Vivek Oberoi.

In fact, the petition argues that Prasoon Joshi, chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, is listed and credited as one of the artists who worked on the film.

“In other words, the CBFC has acted as the judge in its own cause, (or alternatively, as a judge in the cause of its Chairman) thereby casting a pallor over its decision to be so liberal in its grant of permission for the movie to be released in such an expeditious manner," Mr. Panwar, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, argued.

Besides this, the petition said all four producers are card-carrying official BJP members. Two of them had held official posts in the party machinery. The fourth producer was a participant in ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ and had recently signed, through his company, an MoU with the BJP government in the State for a reported sum of around of ₹177 crore.

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The petition said the “desperate rush to script, shoot and release the movie in a hurried and clumsy manner” was to time the film with the general elections. This, Mr. Panwar said, was “a fact admitted to by none other than the director himself.”

“The BJP has direct association with the movie, with Maharashtra Chief Minister releasing the first poster and BJP chief Amit Shah scheduled to release other similar promotional material.”

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