The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim protection from coercive action against filmmaker Leena Manimekalai on the multiple first information reports that have been filed on the poster of her documentary Kaali, reported The Hindu.
The poster shows a woman dressed as the Hindu deity Kaali smoking a cigarette and raising the pride flag of the LGBTQIA+ community.
On Friday, a bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha issued notices to the administration in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, asking to club all the FIRs filed in the four states. The judges also directed the state governments to not take any action against Manimekalai on the basis of the FIRs.
“The submission is that there is no intent to hurt religious feelings,” Chandrachud noted, reported Live Law. “The object of the film was to depict the goddess in an inclusive sense. At this stage, it may be noted that the lodging of FIRs in multiple States may be of serious prejudice.”
Manimekalai’s documentary had received backlash after she shared its poster on social media on July 2. On the same day, the documentary had been screened at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto as part of the week-long festival “Rhythms of Canada”.
After the screening, multiple FIRs were filed accusing Manimekalai of hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community.
The Delhi Police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations cell had registered the FIR under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Indian High Commission in Canada had also said that it received complaints from several Hindus about the “disrespectful depiction of Hindu gods” on the poster of the film. It had urged the Canadian authorities and the event organisers to withdraw the “provocative material”.
In her petition to the Supreme Court the filmmaker had contended that her intent was to depict a “radically inclusive goddess” and not to offend religious sentiments. The plea also said that the multiple FIRs infringed her right to freedom of expression and amounted to harassment, reported Live Law.
Manimekalai has also sought action against social media user who have threatened to rape and kill her for sharing the poster. The court will next hear the matter on February 20.