The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim protection from arrest to filmmaker Leena Manimekalai in multiple FIRs lodged against her for depicting Hindu goddess Kaali smoking a cigarette in a poster of her documentary.
A bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and P.S. Narasimha said: “At this stage, prima facie, it appears that the institution of FIRs in multiple states would be a matter of serious prejudice to the petitioner. We are inclined to issue notice so that all the FIRs shall be consolidated in one and the same place in accordance with law.”
Advocate Kamini Jaiswal, assisted by advocate Indira Unninayar, represented Manimekalai in the apex court. She said that FIRs have been filed against the petitioner arising out of the short film in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Delhi.
“As a result, it has been submitted that the petitioner is likely to be subjected to coercive proceedings arising out of the same film in diverse states. Moreover, a look out circular has been issued against the petitioner in Bhopal. The FIRs to which reference has been… are those which are within the knowledge of the petitioner,” noted the bench, in its order.
The bench said pending further orders, no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner either on the basis of the FIRs which have been instituted against her, or pursuant to any other FIR which may have been lodged or may be lodged hereafter in respect of the same film.
“Issue notice returnable on 20 February 2023,” it said.
The petitioner sought a direction to quash all the FIRs registered against the filmmaker in various states over the poster of her documentary titled “Kaali”.
The plea filed by Manimekalai said: “She is also aggrieved that instead of taking action against the dangerous cyber violence that she faced thereafter, the State has targeted its actions against her. Such State action is violative of her rights to creative interpretation as a film-maker under Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. It is also violative of her rights to life, liberty and reputation, and, safety and safe passage under Articles 21 r/w 19(1).”
The plea added that petitioner and her family are concerned that she is not in a position to return to India from Canada where she is presently staying, given the danger to her life and personal liberty – at the hands of the state on the one hand, and vigilantes on the other.