Four students have been suspended from their college in India for making a short film on homosexuality.

The director, producer and actors in the five minute film have all been suspended from St Joseph’s College of Communication in the state of Kerala.

The students claim that this disciplinary action is an infringement of their rights of free expression.

However, the college authorities say the issue involved gross breach of discipline as the film was shot on the university campus without prior permission.

The controversy comes in the middle of an Indian debate on moral policing within the arts.

Fr Sebastian Punnassery, director of the college told PTI: “We have nothing more to say now as the matter is before the Mahatma Gandhi University to which the college is affiliated.”

But in a memo to students, the college authorities said that the film had obscene scenes which were capable of misleading young minds.

Jeo Baby, a final year student of MA Cinema and Television, said that his film “Secret Minds” wanted only to portray the reality that gay people exist in Indian society.

He told PTI that the film “is a serious movie on gay subject with only music and no dialogue. The college authorities came to know about it when the film was submitted for a campus film festival, and conducted by a leading film society.”

Jeo has previously won campus prizes for making films about begging.

Mahatma Ghandi University sources said the appeal of the students would be considered by the Vice-Chancellor later this month.

Homosexuality is illegal in India and can carry prison terms of up to ten years. It was made illegal during British colonial rule in 1861.

But there is an underground gay community in India, and under 50 people are believed to have ever been convicted of the crime. This is mainly because judges tend to be lenient.