The Union defence ministry refused to grant a no objection certificate to a movie because it portrayed a romantic relationship between a soldier and a Kashmiri boy, which would cast the Indian Army “in poor light and raise security issues”, the Centre told the Lok Sabha on Friday.

In response to a question, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said that the Indian Army received 18 proposals for no objection certificates between January 31, 2021, and January 31, 2022, and has rejected just one. One proposal was still pending with it.

Filmmaker Onir had said in January that the Indian Army rejected his proposed movie that was based on the life of a retired Indian Army officer who is homosexual, reported The Indian Express. A requirement introduced in 2020 makes it necessary for the ministry to approve all films concerning the military.

The story of the proposed film was based on the life of Major J Suresh, who had quit the Army on account of his sexual orientation. Onir said it was ironic that the Ministry of Defence should object to the film, given that consensual adult homosexuality was decriminalised by the Supreme Court in September 2018.

“When there is a Central Board of Film Certification set up for the purpose of clearing films, where’s the need for additional government ministries to clear them?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Bhatt told the Lok Sabha that the approval process was neither discriminatory nor did it violate Article 14 (equality before law).

“Each case is considered based on its own merits keeping in view the factors like national security, the defence of India, situation of law and order in the country/various states, maintenance of discipline in the Armed Forces, ethos/customs of military service and general sentiments of the citizens and image of the Armed Forces in the minds of the citizens of India/general public,” the minister said.

He also said that the approval process did not violate Article 19 (freedom of speech and expression) as it was subject to “reasonable restrictions that may be required for safeguarding the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states and public order, decency or morality, or incitement to an offence etc.”

Bhat said that in the last 10 years, the Indian Navy received one proposal for a no objection certificate, which was pending. He said that since 2019, the Indian Air Force got 13 proposals for the certificate and it had granted all of them.

While homosexuality has been decriminalised, General Bipin Rawat, who was the Army chief in January 2019, had said at the time that such sexual behaviour, along with adultery, will not be allowed in the Army despite the changes in the country’s laws. The Supreme Court had also decriminalised adultery in 2018.

Onir had said that the objection to his film was a “basic denial of human dignity”. He asked why sexual orientation should be a problem when homosexuality is no longer a crime in India.

He said there was “no logic” in the fact that films dealing with military personnel can show heterosexual love but not same-sex love. “This amounts to discrimination,” Onir added.