The Supreme Court today refused to accord an urgent hearing on the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak’s Committee (SGPC) plea, seeking modification of the order allowing the movie Nanak Shah Fakir to be released in theatres across India.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the submission of the SGPC’s counsel that nobody should be allowed to portray the life of Sikh gurus, their families and the ‘punj pyara’ on screen. The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said once a film has been granted certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), its release can only be stalled through lawful means.
The bench did not agree to the submission of Satender Singh Gulati, counsel for SGPC, that the interim plea be heard either today or tomorrow as the film releases in the theatres on Friday.
The bench said the plea will be listed for hearing on Monday. The top court had on April 10 criticised SGPC, the apex religious body of the Sikhs, for imposing restrictions on the film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ and had cleared the decks for its nationwide release scheduled on April 13. It had said after the certification from CBFC, no group, body, association or individuals can create any kind of disturbance in exhibition of the film.
The order had come on a petition by Harinder S Sikka, a retired Naval officer and the producer of the film, who had approached the apex court claiming that the SGPC had recently banned the release of film which is based on the life and teachings of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, even after the CBFC cleared it on March 28.
The bench had said the petition presented yet another picture of “many a private body endeavouring to curtail the freedom of expression of the idea of an author scripted in celluloid language because they have a perception that there will be some kind of law and order situation if the film in question, namely, Nanak Shah Fakir is released in movie halls”.
The apex court had observed that encouragement of such activities has the potential to bring in “anarchy and cripple the right of freedom of speech and expression”. The bench had issued notice to the Centre and all the states and directed them to oversee that wherever the film is released, law and order is maintained and no one is allowed to create any disturbance.
The film was initially cleared by CBFC on March 30, 2015, and slated for release in April 2015, but after widespread protests, it was banned in Punjab for two months. After the ban, Sikka had withdrawn its worldwide release. He claimed to have held deliberations with the SGPC on various issues relating to the movie and, as suggested, carried out necessary modification. Following this, he had again approached the CBFC for clearance.
The CBFC had again cleared the movie on March 28, 2018, but now SGPC, through a letter dated March 30, has withdrawn its support to the movie.