Case Description

A 3 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court will decide the challenge to the order passed by the Election Commission of India stalling the release of the biopic showcasing the life of the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi in view of the operation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

Background

The trailer of film titled PM Narendra Modi which showcases the different phases in the life of current Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi was released on March 20th, 2109 and the film was scheduled for release on April 5th 2019. However, pursuant to the release of the trailer, a plea was filed before the Supreme Court by Congress leader Mr. Amit Panwar seeking a stay on the release of the film ahead of the upcoming general elections as te Model Code of Conduct was already in place.The plea was dismissed by a Bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi observing that the same was premature given the fact that the Central board of Film Certification (CBFC) was yet to grant a certificate to the film. Further, even when the certificate had been granted, the question whether the release of the film would violate the Model Code of Conduct was to be considered by the Election Commission and the Court would not interfere for a 2-minute view of the film cannot help in knowing the impact of the film in the forthcoming general elections.

 

Subsequently, on April 10th, the Election Commission of India passed an order in exercise of its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution and directed that any biopic which serves the interests of a political or individual entity connected to it and has the potential to disturbing the level playing field during elections cannot be displayed in electronic media from the  period  of operation of the Model Code of Conduct which was in place from 10th March, 2019, i.e. the date of announcement of the general elections by the Commission. 

The order of the Election Commission staying the release of the film during the period that the Model Code of Conduct is in operation has been challenged by the producers of the film in a petition before the Supreme Court. The makers of the film have approached the Supreme Court contending that the release of the film is a means to secure the freedom of speech and expression and the film itself must be viewed as an inspirational story rather than a tool of political propaganda. 

 

Issues

1) Whether Election Commission has the power to stall the realease of a certified movie by citing Model Code of Conduct?

2) Doe Model Code of Conduct apply to individuals who are not political party members?

3) Does a stay on the movie by Election Commission violate freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution?

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