Decks cleared for 'Padmaavat' release as SC stays States' ban

'Padmavat' is scheduled to release on January 25, 2017.

'Padmavat' is scheduled to release on January 25, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the notifications and orders passed by certain States to prohibit the exhibition of the Censor Board certified movie, Padmaavat, saying the court's "conscience is shocked" that the States have guillotined creative rights.

The court ordered all States to ensure that public law and order situation is maintained during the screening of the film across the country.

The movie portrays the 13th century historical battle between Maharaja Ratan Singh's army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi. Many factions were up in arms against the portrayal of Queen Padmavati in the film.


'Protect artistes, people involved in film from threats'

The court ordered the States to protect the artistes and the people involved in the movie from threats. It further forbade the States from passing any order, notification which amounts to prohibition of the exhibition of the movie.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that a film may bomb at the box office or people may choose to not watch it, but a States cannot use its machinery to prohibit the movie's exhibition citing risk to public order.

The three-judge Bench led by the Chief Justice, quoting its judgment in the 2011 Prakash Jha judgment, observed in a detailed order that it was "the duty and obligation of the State to maintain law and order".

"States, on the other hand, cannot issue notifications prohibiting the screening of a film," Chief Justice Misra observed.

The court said the grant of certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) under the Cinematograph Act of 1952 denudes the States of any power to exercise prohibition on the exhibition of the film.

The apex court held that "once Parliament has conferred the responsibility and power on a statutory Board and the Board has certified the film, non-exhibition of the film by the States is contrary to statutory provisions."

The moviemakers had moved the court against the 'hostile' moves made by the BJP-ruled States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh against the movie.

Gujarat and Rajasthan issued notifications on January 5 and 17 respectively, prohibiting the screening of the film. Haryana had, in-principle, agreed to a ban on the movie's exhibition and Madhya Pradesh had made statements that they intend to ban the screening of the movie.

The court dismissed the argumentS by Gujarat and Rajasthan, represented by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, that the CBFC did not have the expertise or wherewithal to gauge the security risks and public order situation when it certified a movie for public screening in theatres. The States have the right to prevent "breach of peace". Mr. Mehta quoted Section7 of the Rajasthan Cinemas Regulation Act of 1952 in this regard.


'Film was certified after changes'

Senior advocate Harish Salve, for the movie producers, said the film was certified after changes, including in the title. "States cannot throw the CBFC certificate in the dustbin. This is lawlessness. States cannot ban screening to appease their political constituency. This will lead to constitutional breakdown," he said.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, also appearing for the filmmakers, said "States cannot become super censors".

Mr. Salve submitted, "Certifying a film is a statutory act under a central law. States cannot defy the Supreme Court and encroach into Union territory merely because it is politically convenient."

He said there would probably come a day "when I can say I have the freedom of speech to distort history. The nation is not ready for it now".

Mr. Mehta immediately protested the submission, saying "this nation will never be ready. Imagine saying Gandhiji is sipping whisky".

"Surely you have to have watch film Jesus Christ - Superstar'" Mr. Salve addressed Mr. Mehta.

"That is not Indian standard!" Mr. Mehta hit back.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 2:17:42 PM |

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