LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the Punjab government and the film censor board on a petition challenging a ban on the exhibition of film Joyland in the province.

Representing the petition filed by the producers of the film, Advocate Usama Khawar contended that the film had initially been approved for screening throughout Pakistan by both the central and provincial film censor boards in August 2022.

He said the central government later owing to pressure from rightwing groups banned the film nationwide on Nov 11. However, he said, a censor board review committee lifted the ban subsequently.

The counsel submitted that after the lifting of the nationwide ban, the Punjab government banned the release of the film in the province on grounds of ‘receiving complaints’.

He argued that the impugned order of the ban was a classic example of a non-speaking order as it did not reflect any application of mind or reasoning by the respondent provincial government, and there were no reasons assigned for the decision.

He said the impugned decision of the government did not even fulfill legal requirements to constitute a valid executive action. The requirements mainly include an inquiry and an approval nod by the provincial cabinet, he said.

The counsel further said the ban was clearly an attempt to silence the media industry, suppress creativity, and letting the dominant narrative of a certain segment of society prevail.

He asked the court to hold accountability of the provincial government for taking such arbitrary and illegal actions.

He also asked the court to declare the impugned ban illegal and restrain the respondents from creating hurdles in the screening of the film in the province.

After hearing the arguments of the counsel, Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir issued notices to the respondent for submission of their replies by Dec 13.

The petition was filed by the Distribution Club (Pvt.) Limited and film’s co-producer Sana Zahra.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022

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