Making her position public for the first time on the row over Vishwaroopam, a film made by Kamal Haasan, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday said the decks could be cleared for the screening of the movie if leaders of Muslim organisations and the actor arrived at an amicable agreement and he agreed to delete objectionable portions.

‘No question of curbing freedom of speech’

“The government of Tamil Nadu will do everything possible to facilitate such an agreement. There is no question of curbing freedom of speech,” the Chief Minister told reporters at an unscheduled press conference here.

Clarifying several points on the controversy, she said it was a total misconception that the State government did not have powers to ban a movie. Section 7 of the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1955, provided full powers to the State government to effect a ban. She pointed out that using the clause, the movie Dam 999 was banned and this was upheld by the Supreme Court.

‘No political vendetta’

In the case of Vishwaroopam, the State government had applied only Section 144 of the Cr.PC because it wanted to give time for tempers to cool down and both sides could come together. The government could have straight away banned the movie, if it wanted to do so. But it did not. “That itself should prove that this is not political vendetta. There is no reason for any vindictiveness. Mr. Haasan is not my rival in any way,” she added.

On Wednesday, Mr. Haasan had agreed to delete some of the objectionable portions. The leaders of Muslim organisations are in a frame of mind to accept this, she said.

As her first and foremost priority was the maintenance of law and order, she justified the ban, citing intelligence reports which stated that the protest, planned by various Muslim organisations, could turn violent in some parts of the State.

She also referred to inadequate police strength for giving protection at 524 cinema halls where the movie was to be screened.

The Chief Minister criticised Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi for using every opportunity to politicise the issue. As far as her government was concerned, the controversy was not a political issue but a matter of law and order.