The Madras High Court late on Tuesday night stayed the Tamil Nadu government’s ban on the screening of actor-director Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, paving the way for the film’s release in the State.

Justice K. Venkataraman passed the interim order after 10 p.m. following marathon arguments for over six hours on the validity of the two-week ban.

As soon as the order was pronounced, Additional Advocate-General P.H. Arvindh Pandian wanted the judge to suspend his own order until Wednesday morning. However, he declined the request.

Advocate-General A. Navaneethakrishnan and Mr. Pandian rushed to the residence of Acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharma Rao in a midnight effort to get the order suspended. Later, the AG told reporters that Mr. Justice Dharma Rao had permitted them to mention the matter on Wednesday on moving an appeal before a Division Bench.

At the time of going to press, there was no official word from the producers or theatre-owners on when the film would be released.

Mr. Justice Venkataraman made it clear that the interim order was passed considering the prima facie case established by the petitioners; but, after the counter-affidavit was filed by the respondents, the matter would be decided on its merits in accordance with law. Any expression made in the order should not be viewed as a final decision taken on the grounds raised by the petitioners or the contentions made by the respondents.

The judge said the order under Section 144 Cr.P.C. came to be passed in view of the representation given by several Muslim organisations. Their remedy was to approach the authority named under the Cinematograph Act. His order would not be a stumbling block to their approaching the authority.

Common decision

“No doubt, for maintaining law and order, the authority competent is entitled to pass an order under Sec. 144 of Cr.PC, but that does not mean that a section of society can curtail the fundamental rights of a citizen,” the judge said. One more aspect to be considered was that all district magistrates/Collectors had taken a common decision and passed orders, which appeared to be strange.

The judge said he was of the considered view that the order under Sec.144 was liable to be kept in abeyance for the present. Therefore, there shall be an order of interim stay of the order. There shall be an order of interim injunction restraining the authorities from interfering with the petitioner’s rights in releasing the film in Tamil language.

The film was originally slated for release on January 25.