A Bollywood filmmaker’s first film, to be released next month, will be prohibited in India after its release amid a crackdown on the film industry and religious minorities, according to a decision by the country’s top court.
Justice B.K. Sharma, who made the ruling, said the ban was needed to prevent “an alarming rise” in hate crimes against the community and said there was “unprecedented” pressure on producers to censor the film.
“We have the right to protect and preserve our cultural heritage, but we have the responsibility to prevent an alarming rise in hate crime against the minorities,” he said.
Justice Sharma, a retired judge, was referring to the case of Kalaal Khan, a prominent Muslim writer who was killed in a hate crime by her son and his relatives in 2014.
The film, based on a book by the same name, was banned in several states in 2016.
The ban led to protests by several minority communities in India.
The ruling by the Bombay high court came as Bollywood has been hit by a wave of violence, with attacks on actors and studios in the country increasing since the government announced plans to crack down on religious intolerance in March.
“The petition has been heard in court and we have submitted a detailed response to the petitioners’ representations,” Bollywood producer and chief executive officer Rajat Bhushan told reporters in New Delhi.
The Bombay high Court had rejected a petition filed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that argued the ban on the movie, which has been made with money donated by Bollywood celebrities and directed by Rajkumar Hirani, would create an “immoral” environment for the film’s audience.
In his ruling, Justice Sharma said the case could not be tried without first giving the government the opportunity to review its decision.
Justice Singh told the film distributor, Bollywood Film and Television Corporation (BFCT), that it was not possible to review the ban “without giving them (the government) an opportunity to comment.”
“I think the case will go forward.
We need to keep a check on the situation and have to ensure that no other film goes ahead,” he added.
The Supreme Court had earlier allowed the release of Shah Rukh Khan’s film, The Great Beauty, but the government revoked it in March after a group of protesters gathered outside the film theatres and demanded the release.
The group later dispersed.