Indian court favors nun’s petition to ban offensive movie

Indian court favors nun’s petition to ban offensive movie

Petitioner says ‘Aquarium’ paints a very vulgar picture about Catholic priests and nuns

Saji Thomas Saji Thomas Published: May 19, 2021 08:32 AM GMT
Indian court favors nun's petition to ban offensive movie
‘Aquarium’ shows nuns and priests having same-sex and heterosexual relationship besides having sex with animals. (Photo: Facebook)

Delhi High Court has directed the federal Information and Broadcasting Ministry to expeditiously consider a Catholic nun’s demand to ban a movie accused of portraying priests and nuns as “sex maniacs”.

The direction from the state court of the national capital came on May 17 while it was hearing a petition from Sister Jessy Mani, a member of the indigenous Sacred Heart Congregation.

The nun petitioned the court seeking to ban Aquarium, a movie made in the Malayalam language of southern India’s Kerala state.

The movie was due to be released on May 14 through online platforms. However, Kerala High Court stayed its release on May 12 for two weeks, accepting a petition by two nuns to ban it permanently because of highly offensive content.

Sister Mani expects the Central Board of Film Certification, which functions under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, “will understand our concerns and take appropriate action.”

The nun’s petition said the movie depicted nuns and priests having same-sex and heterosexual relationships besides having sex with animals.

“It painted a very vulgar picture about Catholic priests and nuns,” she told UCA News.

Lawyer Jose Abraham, who represented Sister Mani in court, said the nun “can go back to the High Court again in case the federal government fails to address the concerns raised about the movie.”

The Kerala Church has been fighting the movie’s release since 2013, said Father Jacob Palackappilly, deputy secretary general of the regional bishops’ council.

In 2013, the certification board blocked the movie’s release because of its vulgar and blasphemous content, he said.

But the producers changed its name and gained certification this year to release it online, taking advantage of the relaxed rules for online platforms, the priest added.

“I am well aware of its content. It portrays Catholic priests and nuns as sex maniacs, having sex with even animals,” Father Palackappilly said.

He said the court direction could be an opportunity for the government to frame adequate guidelines to restrict filmmakers’ freedom of expression to the extent that is should not hurt the sentiments of anyone.

Abraham said the movie’s release has now been stalled until the certification board releases its findings.

The Delhi court also noted the stay order of Kerala High Court and therefore no additional stay order was issued, he said.

India has witnessed violent protests against movies with content allegedly offending the sensibilities of religious communities and caste groups.

Violence and opposition have forced the certification board to ban the release of at least 15 movies in the past three decades.

“Christians are a peace-loving community and dedicated to their work without interfering in others’ business. But our silence should not be taken for granted and targeted in the name of freedom of expression,” Father Palackappilly said.

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