The Kerala High Court has held that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has the authority to suspend a film till its re-examination to make sure it complies with the conditions of certification.
The court, however, directed the CBFC and its regional officer, Thiruvananthapuram, to take necessary steps to re-examine the film in accordance with the provisions of the Act and Rules, within three weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the judgement.
Justice Shaji P Chali gave the verdict on a petition filed by the producer and director of Malayalam feature film 'S Durga' challenging the suspension of the certification of the movie by the CBFC. The high court, which went through the powers of the CBFC under Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, held that sufficient powers are vested with the Board to take appropriate action.
The court gave the verdict on January 11. The high court, while disposing of the petition, said if the petitioners are confining themselves to the public exhibition of the film in various mediums as per the certification granted earlier, permission shall be granted at the earliest possible time for public exhibition of 'S Durga.'
In their petition, producer Shaji Mathew and director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan had said they were "deeply aggrieved with the illegal, arbitrary, high-handed and malafide manner" in which the CBFC certification of the film was suspended on November 28.
The Censor Board on November 28 had ordered a re-examination of the controversial film, derailing its court-ordered screening at the IFFI. They had contended that the CBFC had no power under the Cinematograph Act 1952 to issue such direction.
The petitioners had alleged that the CBFC acted with the malicious intention of thwarting the exhibition of the film in the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held at Goa.
A single bench of the high court had on November 21 ordered that the certified version of the film should be exhibited at the Goa film festival. An appeal was filed against the single bench order. The division bench of the high court, however, did not grant the stay on the single bench order.
A screening of the censored version of the film was held for the jury on November 27 in Panaji and in a letter dated November 28, the CBFC wrote to the producers asking them to resubmit the movie, which was earlier given a U/A certificate.
The producer and the director have claimed that it was an independent art film, which deals with a paradoxical patriarchal tendency to objectify women.