The screening of the controversial movie 'Nanak Shah Fakir', based on the life of the first guru of the Sikhs, will continue, with the Supreme Court today ruling that its interim order allowing its release would remain operational.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said it would hear on May 8 the submission and the counter on behalf of the film producer and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex Sikh religious body, on the movie.
The SGPC vehemently referred to its 2003 notification and said it had specifically prohibited anyone from portraying any of the ten 'Gurus', their family members and 'Panj Pyare' on the silver screen. 'Panj Pyare' were five men who were initiated into the the brotherhood of the Sikh faith by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
"The release of the movie was directly in teeth of Article 26 (2) (fundamental right to freedom to manage religious affairs) of the Constitution," senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for the SGPC, told the bench which also comprised Justice A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
The movie has already been released in and outside the country, barring in Punjab, senior advocate R S Suri, appearing for the producer, told the bench.
"The fundamental issue is to see whether the life of Guru Nanak Dev has been portrayed in the right manner or not," the bench said.
The producer said it was willing to show the movie to the SGPC and the 'Akal Takth' and was open to any meaningful changes. The Akal Takht is one of five seats of power of the Sikh religion, which is located at Amritsar's historic Golden Temple.
The bench suggested that the actor, who has portrayed the Guru Nanak Dev, should not be named in the movie and asked the parties to consider it.
Veteran senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who was also present in the court room, was asked to submit on the controversy.
"Every religion may have some rules. But they cannot override the constitutional principles. The role of Guru Nanak Dev ji has been played by some person. What is the big deal in it," Jethmalani said.
The bench said the new generation would come to know about the Guru through the movie and there should not be any problem if "the depiction is proper and respectful".
"This is a case of U-turn," Suri said, adding that the producer has the "highest regard" for the Sikh bodies and was willing to show the film again to them.
The bench said probably, no religion can say that no movie can be made based on the "divine characters if the protrayal is dignified." It also considered the fact that the movie had won a national award for promoting national integrity and fixed the plea for further hearing on May 8.
The top court had on April 10 criticised the SGPC for imposing restrictions on the film and cleared the decks for its nationwide release on April 13.
The court had on April 12 refused to accord urgent hearing on the SGPC's plea while posting it for today. The same day, another Sikh body Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had moved the Delhi High Court against the movie's release, but failed to get any reprieve with the high court refused to stay the release saying the petition was motivated after the Supreme Court refused to grant any relief.
The apex court had earlier 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. It had said after the CBFC certification, 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 the film which is based on the life and teachings of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, even after the CBFC cleared it on March 28.
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