Congress intervenes, gets PIL against ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ film withdrawn

Kanchan Vasdev, Sofi Ahsan
Anupam Kher shared this photo of the entire cast of The Accidental Prime Minister.

The Congress top leadership Wednesday intervened to get a party leader from Punjab to withdraw a PIL he had filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking a stay on the release of the movie 'The Accidental Prime Minister', based on a book on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Pali allowed the petitioner to withdraw his petition. "Before the arguments could start, the counsel for the petitioner sought permission from the court to withdraw the petition and it was granted," Satya Pal Jain, Additional Solicitor General of India said.

Jain along with another counsel Dheeraj Jain was representing the Centre and the Censor Board. "We appeared on behalf of the Government of India and the Censor Board and we informed the court that a similar petition on similar grounds has been dismissed by the Delhi court," said Jain.

Punjab sports minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi's son Anumit Singh alias Hira Sodhi had on Tuesday filed the petition. Sources told the Indian Express that following reports in the media about Anumit Sodhi filing the PIL, Congress' communication cell in-charge, Randeep Singh Surjewala, also a confidant of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, called up the party state unit and directed that the petition be withdrawn.

Anumit Sodhi had reportedly not kept the party in the loop while filing the PIL. The Congress has already decided that it would not try to stop the screening of the movie in any way. The state Congress had, however, made an appeal to the people to decide on their own "what the former PM did for the people of the country and especially for Punjab". The Congress leaders were asked to interact with people and tell them that the movie was a slur on the former PM.

"Since Anumit Sodhi is an active member of the Congress party, and his father is a cabinet minister, his moving the court would have been seen as a move by the Congress to get a stay on the film's release. The high command did not want that. Hence, he was asked to immediately withdraw the petition," an AICC leader said requesting anonymity.

Interestingly, Anumit Sodhi is an aspirant of a Lok Sabha ticket from the Ferozepore constituency, also his home district. While he had refrained from speaking to the media on the issue, an agency had been hired to "publicise" the petition filed by the Congress leader. Anumit Sodhi told The Indian Express that he withdrew petition as "the party wanted the people to themselves to realise how BJP was trying to belittle the former PM". Also, the Delhi High Court had dismissed a similar plea, he added.

The Delhi High Court had earlier in the day dismissed public interest litigation (PIL), seeking a ban on the film and its trailer alleging that it defamed the constitutional post of the prime minister.

In the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the senior counsel representing Anumit Sodhi sought permission to withdraw the plea as soon as the case was taken up for hearing in the afternoon.

In the petition filed through advocate Kannan Malik, Anumit Sodhi had sought quashing of the certificate issued to the movie by Central Board of\Film Certification and a stay on its release during the pendency of the case. According to the petition, the movie was "challenging and questioning" the integrity and authority" of the Prime Minister's Office and also "completely destroys" the public image of Manmohan Singh, "who has been the Prime Minister twice and the Finance Minister and during
whose reign the country has grown". He also questioned the timing of the release of the movie just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls calling it "political propaganda".

The film starring Anupam Kher as Manmohan Singh is scheduled to release on January 11.