The Supreme Court on April 8 will hear a petition by a Congress leader seeking a stay on the release of the film PM Narendra Modi, a biopic on the Prime Minister.
The petition, filed by advocate Aman Panwar, who says he is a ‘National Media Panelist’ of the Congress party, was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice S A Bobde, which fixed the date.
Appearing for Panwar, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the release of the film, produced by people connected to the ruling party when the Model Code of conduct was in force, would affect free and fair polls. Singhvi contended that the movie would affect the level playing field.
The bench wondered why the petitioner had approached it directly without going to a High Court. Singhvi replied that the Delhi and Bombay High Courts had already rejected similar petitions against the biopic.
The petition said that ever since it was announced that the film would be released on April 5, “it became inescapably clear…that the movie was little more than a propaganda vehicle being timed to release in coordination with the upcoming elections”.
The movie, Panwar claimed, “was driven by little to no artistic inspiration and was instead designed to manipulate, influence and impress viewers and voters in the upcoming elections”.
The petition contended that “there has, at no point of time since elections have been held in independent India, such a blatant and brazen disregard of electoral laws and for the intelligence of the general public”.
“While it may or may not be likely that such a hagiographic and sycophantic work will influence the voters, the precedent such a release sets will reverberate throughout the course of future elections,” the petition said, adding that “the principle needs to be protected”.
The petitioner said there were “several facts which demonstrated that the movie was not an innocuous work of art” despite claims by the producers, director and lead actor. All four producers had “deep and pervasive links to the Bharatiya Janata Party”, it said, and questioned Central Board of Film Certification chairman Prasoon Joshi’s association with the film.
Panwar said there was a “desperate rush to script, shoot and release the movie in a hurried and clumsy manner to time it with the general elections”, and added that this was “admitted to by none other than the director himself”.
“(The) direct association of the upper echelons of the BJP leadership in the stewardship and endorsement of the movie further diminishes the argument that it is an independent work of art produced as the realization of a long-standing vision,” the petition contended, adding that the Maharashtra chief minister had released its first poster.