The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed another plea to stay the release of the controversial movie Padmavati and initiate criminal prosecution against its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
It made it clear that it wants the Censor Board to come to an independent and considered decision on certifying the movie.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the Supreme Court cannot stop a statutory body like the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) from doing its statutory duty of certifying a film by “prematurely” ordering a stay on its release.
“Can the Supreme Court intervene to stop a movie? The CBFC has a statutory duty. Can this court injunct a statutory board from doing its duty,” Chief Justice Misra asked the petitioner-advocate M.L. Sharma.
Referring to the repeated pleas filed before it for stay of the movie even before the CBFC has certified it, he said, “All this happens because people do not read the Cinematograph Act and rules.”
“Five members see a movie. Once they see it, they discuss it among themselves and suggest cuts. Before they do anything, they give the film-makers an opportunity to be heard to convince them not to cut the scenes in question,” the Chief Justice explained.
He said that in case of any grievance, there is the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.
The court, in its order, said the film is yet to be certified by the CBFC and that “our interference will tantamount to pre-judging the matter.”
Mr. Sharma began by arguing that the movie indulges in the “character assassination” of the 13th century Queen Padmavati.
“The Queen was not a dancer. She was a warrior’s wife and a warrior herself,” Mr. Sharma submitted.
He argued that the film-makers have released the songs without CBFC certification.
He contended that the CBFC did not take any action despite the fact that the songs were part of the movie.
“I can prove my point. I can produce the songs in court on Tuesday,” Mr. Sharma said.
Appearing for the film-makers, senior advocate Harish Salve, with senior advocate Shyam Divan, argued that the movie is before the examination committee of the CBFC.
Mr. Salve said what “we have released are promos.” He argued that audios do not require approval.
The court also turned down Mr. Sharma’s plea to initiate prosecution under Section 499 IPC (criminal defamation) against the film-makers.
The court further found some portions of Mr. Sharma’s petition offensive and struck them out. “Pleadings in a court are not meant to create any kind of disharmony in a society which believes in the concept of unity in diversity,” Chief Justice Misra said in the order.
This is the second time the court has refused to interfere in the duties of the CBFC on Padmavati .
The period drama is based on the 13th century battle between Maharaja Ratan Singh and his army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi.