Poll panel refuses to stay PM Narendra Modi release, asks CBFC to decide

The Election Commission of India has refused to stay the release of Omung Kumar B’s upcoming PM Narendra Modi, a biopic of the incumbent prime minister.

The commission had been urged by opposition parties to examine if the film violates the model code of conduct in place for the seven-phase general election that is set to begin on 11 April and which will end on 19 May. 

The website News18.com reported that the commission stated that it has no authority to prevent the release of a film, and that such authority lies with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

The opposition Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) had filed complaints with the commission alleging ‘political intent’ in the timing of the film’s release. The film was launched in the last week of January and the producers are racing against time to complete it for release on 5 April. The film’s earlier release date was 12 April, just a day after the first phase of polling.

The commission thereafter sent notices to both the makers of the film and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The makers of the film denied any connection with the ruling party and said the film had been made with ‘private funding’. The BJP is yet to reply to its notice, according to reports. 

The decision by the Election Commission comes a day after the high courts of Delhi and Bombay dismissed public-interest petitions seeking a stay on the film’s release till the Lok Sabha elections are over. The Delhi high court refused to entertain the petition because a similar petition was pending in the Bombay high court. The Bombay high court in turn rejected the petition before it because the Election Commission was seized of the matter.

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Reports suggest that the commission is currently waiting for an official reply from the BJP to complete its investigation and conclude its statement. An official decision on whether the film should be referred back to the CBFC for re-examination is also awaited.

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