Nanak Shah Fakir to hit theatres tomorrow as Supreme Court, High Court refuse to stall screening

Two Sikh bodies today made unsuccessful attempts in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court to stall the release of the movie ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, which would hit theatres across the nation tomorrow.

Both the top court and the high court rejected the respective pleas of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) to accord urgent hearing. But later, the Supreme Court listed the matter for hearing on April 16 and the high court for April 22.

As the apex court began its proceedings this morning, SGPC mentioned the matter before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra seeking modification of its order allowing the release of the film.

However, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, refused urgent hearing, saying once a film has been granted certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), its release can only be stalled through lawful means.

A few hours later during the post-lunch session, SGPC counsel Satender Singh Gulati again made an attempt to get some relief but the bench stuck to its stand and refused to budge from its morning order.

The SGPC lawyer referred to the 2003 resolution of the apex Sikh body and said that nobody can be allowed to portray the lives of ten Sikh gurus, their families and the ‘panj pyare’ on screen and otherwise.

However, the court said “the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has already granted the certification. Outsiders cannot be allowed to curtail the freedom of speech and expression.”

During the second attempt, the SGPC said its plea should be either heard today or tomorrow as it would be rendered infructuous as the movie is slated for release tomorrow.

The bench again refused to consider the SGPC submission and said the plea would be heard on April 16.

In a last-ditch effort at the fag end of the day, another Sikh body DSGMC moved a plea before the Delhi High Court challenging the release of the movie saying it has characterised the family members of Guru Nank Dev with humans/actors which is against the principles of Sikh religion.

However, DSGMC also failed to get any reprieve as the High Court refused to stay the release of movie saying the petition was motivated after the Supreme Court refused to grant any relief.

It said it was unbelievable that the DSGMC, which has filed the petition challenging the no-objection certificate issued by the Censor Board, was not aware of the making of film till now.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, which issued notices and sought responses of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, CBFC and film’s producer Harinder S Sikka, said the “release of the film cannot be interdicted”

The High Court directed the Centre to ensure maintenance of law and order and made it clear that it was not granting any ex-parte relief to DSGMC without hearing the film producer. The bench then listed the matter for further hearing on May 22.

The producer of the movie has reportedly said that the movie will not be released in Punjab.

The top court had on April 10 criticised SGPC, the apex religious body of the Sikhs, for imposing restrictions on the film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ and had cleared the decks for its nationwide release scheduled on April 13.

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 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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