According to latest reports, the Indian Election Commission has stalled Bollywood biopic about Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the election period.
The commission said, “Any biopic material in the nature of biography/hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it, which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematography during the operation of MCC.”
“Though the display materials claim to be a part of creative content, it is contended that these have propensity and potentiality to affect the level playing field which is not in consonance with the provisions of Model Code of Conduct (MCC),” the poll panel said.
The committee further stated that it had "noticed certain political contents which are not in conformity with the model code of conduct are being displayed or intended to be displayed to the public through electronic media, which relates to either candidate or political party or a specific achievement of the party in power and there are displayed with the purpose of furtherance of electoral gains during the period of MCC."
The EC wrote to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) that a committee headed by retired judge of Supreme Court or Chief Justice of High Court will henceforth vet all political electronic content (films included) for Model Code violation, said Indian Express.
This update comes just a day after India's top court dismissed an appeal to delay the release of the Modi biopic. The Supreme Court threw out the petition from the opposition Congress party, saying the biopic was not even certified yet and the matter should be considered by the election commission (EC).
Under Indian election rules now in effect, the publication of any content deemed as campaign material — including advertisements, films and even social media — requires the election commission's prior approval.
Congress says the film is flattering of Modi and has slammed the timing of its cinematic release as hundreds of millions of Indians prepare to start voting in a national election this week.
It has lobbied for the movie — which tells the story of the Hindu nationalist leader's ascent to power from his days selling tea at a train station — be withheld from cinemas until voting in the mega-elections ends on May 19.
But in its ruling, the three-judge bench said “too much of court's time was being wasted on non-issue”.
“It will be premature for this court to decide since the film is yet to be certified.” it said.
India's election commission was expected to announce last week whether it would block the film's release because of the election. A spokesperson for the commission declined to comment after the court's ruling.
Filmmakers postponed the scheduled release from April 5 after failing to get a censor's certificate on time. The film's producer, Sandip Ssingh, thanked the court “for the much deserved justice”.
“Our film, 'PM Narendra Modi' to release on 11th April 2019. Jai Hind (Hail India),” he posted on Twitter after the ruling. Voting in the first phase of the Indian election begins the same day.
Congress told the election commission that the film was “no artistic venture. It is a political venture”.
Meanwhile the first five installments of a 10-episode television series on Modi's life have already gone live-to-air.