Most people who make comments against 'Churuli' have not watched the film, says Kerala HC

Churuli has not made any statutory violation or criminal offense, says Kerala police chief inform HC.
Poster of Lijo Jose Pellissery's Churuli
Poster of Lijo Jose Pellissery's Churuli

KOCHI: The special team, constituted by the state police chief, on Monday informed the Kerala High Court that the Malayalam film Churuli has not made any statutory violation or any criminal offences.

"The movie does not contain any dialogue or action, or suggestion instigating violence against state or any matter adversely affecting sovereignty, the integrity of the state, friendly relations with other nations or any matter provoking or promoting hatred among communities or affecting communal harmony," the report submitted by the Kerala police chief said.

The team filed the report following the directive of the high court to the state police chief to constitute a team to watch the nonconforming movie Churuli which is available on the OTT (Over-the-top) platform and to inform the court whether any statutory violation or criminal offence has been committed by exhibiting the film. The directive was issued on the petition filed by advocate Peggy Fen of Thrissur, alleging that the dialogues in the film were against public order, morality, or decency.

When the petition came up for hearing, Justice PV Kunhikrishnan opined that the prima facie no statutory provision was violated by the screening of the film and the petition was a 'publicity oriented litigation'. The court orally observed that most of them who are making comments against the film have not watched the film.

"Now there is a phrase 'Churuli language'. Even I saw a cartoon saying 'Churuli Bhasha' (Churuli language). I don't know whether they watched the movie. This is a trend now. I am sure 90 percent of the people, who made comments about the film, didn't see the film. I can understand a critical view of the film after seeing the movie," orally observed the court and reserved its order in the petition. The court also pointed out another trend that lawyers including constitutional 'experts' and others criticise judgment of the high court without reading it. The lawyers do not even conduct criminal cases making comments. Making comments based on WhatsApp messages is unfair. If it continued, the system would collapse, orally observed the court.

Additional Director General of Prosecution Gracious Kuriakose appeared for Sony LIV and argued that the film had received a certification from the censor board. Sangeetha Lakshmana, counsel for Joju Joseph said that he is only an actor and the other actors who acted in the movie are not parties in the petition.

In the report, the committee stated that the movie is shown on the OTT platform and OTT is not a public place. A place becomes public when a person irrespective of age, gender, or socioeconomic status has free entry and exit without any barrier. OTT cannot be accessed by anyone and entry is not free.

"The alleged presence of obscene matter in the language used by the characters of the film is outweighed by the preponderance of artistic value and social purpose of the film. The language spoken by the characters in the movie is intrinsic to the roles played. Persons living in such living conditions cannot be expected to speak in a decent language used by people living in a normal area. Cinema is a work of art and filmmaker maker is an artist. Article 19 of the Constitution bestows Artistic Freedoms to the Artists. Law cannot direct an artist to use his artistic talents in a particular manner or direct the characters to use a particular language in a particular manner. Artists have full artistic freedom provided that the existing laws of the country are not violated.

It added that section 67 of the IT Act 2000 provides punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. This provision is not attractive in the case as its content is already certified as 'A' (restricted to adults) under the central government rules.

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