Sikh Group loses Battle to Stop Film ‘Santa Banta’

There is nothing in the movie ‘Santa Banta Pvt Ltd’ which could be construed as objectionable or making fun of the Sikh community, the government and the Censor Board told Delhi High Court on Wednesday.

The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath during the hearing of a plea by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee which has contended that the movie, to be released on April 22, makes fun of the Sikh community.

The movie producers and director questioned the maintainability of the plea as a public interest litigation and said the petitioner was claiming that the film was objectionable without even seeing it.

After hearing arguments of all sides, the court directed Viacom 18, which is promoting the film, to provide it a compact disc of the movie, its trailers and preamble and said it will pass orders after viewing them. Thereafter, the bench reserved order in the matter.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court that the censor board has certified the movie after considering all aspects and nothing offensive towards the community was found.

He said under the Cinematograph Act, only the producers can challenge the Board’s order in the appellate tribunal and the petitioner cannot do so in this matter.

He suggested that the court can direct the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to reconsider the certification of the movie as per the provisions of the Act.

The movie’s producers and director were against any reconsideration of the certificate by the government or any such direction by the court, saying this would amount to questioning the board’s decision which took a call after seeing the movie.

They opposed maintainability of the plea saying the petitioner had on March 8 sent them a notice seeking change in the name of the movie, taking down of the posters and demanding Rs 100 crore as damages. They also said the posters were removed in view of the objections of the petitioner.

The producers and director of the movie said the courts had earlier refused to stay the release of several movies like PK, Dhobi Ghat and Ram-Leela, where pleas were filed by certain religious and other communities claiming their feelings were hurt by the films.

The petitioner, however, contended that the film would turn the Sikh community into a laughing stock which could also lead to a law and order situation. It also sought stay on its release on the ground that it “misrepresented” the community and projected “the personality of the community in defamatory and denigrating manner” which could cause “disturbance”.

The plea has alleged if the movie was allowed to be released, the “reputation of Sikh community will be immensely affected, causing irreparable loss to the Sikh community all over the world”.

‘Santa Banta Pvt Ltd’ is a suspense comedy film directed by Akashdeep Sabir and produced by Viacom 18 which will promote and distribute the film along with Cinetek Telefilms.

The cast includes Boman Irani, Vir Das, Lisa Haydon, Neha Dhupia and veteran actors like Johnny Lever, Sanjay Mishra, Vijayraaz and Ayub Khan.

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