Supreme Court lifts ban on Deepika-starrer 'Padmaavat' imposed by four BJP-ruling states

The apex court has stayed the notification by the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat and has given a green signal to the Padmavaat. 

Published: 18th January 2018 12:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th January 2018 11:35 PM   |  A+A-

A still from Deepika Padukone-starrer Padmaavat. (Photo: Facebook)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today paved the way for the nationwide release of Bollywood movie 'Padmaavat' on January 25 by lifting the ban on the screening of the controversial film in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The apex court also restrained other states from issuing any such notification or order banning the screening of the film, based on the saga of historic battle of 13th century between Maharaja Ratan Singh and his army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi.

The decks were cleared for the release of the film, starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in lead roles, as the apex court stayed the orders and notifications issued by Rajasthan and Gujarat governments prohibiting its screening.

Haryana and Madhya Pradesh governments had not issued any formal order but had stated that they would not allow the exhibition of the film.

Creative content, including theatre and cinema, are "inseparable aspects" of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed and said that states were under constitutional obligation to maintain law and order.

"We direct that there shall be a stay of operation on the notification and orders issued (by Rajasthan and Gujarat) and we also restrain other states from issuing such notifications or orders in this matter," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said in its interim order.

During the hearing, the CJI also observed, "the whole problem is when the exhibition of a film is stopped like this, my constitutional conscience shocks me".

"There were so many films earlier, but nobody really bothered. 'Bandit Queen' had passed the test of the Supreme Court," the CJI said.

The top court passed the interim order on the petition by Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd and other producers of the movie challenging bar on screening of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali- directed movie by Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

During the hearing today, the bench was informed that of these four states, only Gujarat and Haryana had issued formal notification and order prohibiting the screening.

Senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, who were appearing for the petitioners, said the states had no power to issue such notifications banning exhibition of a film when the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has already given a certificate for its release.

While Salve termed it as "lawlessness", Rohatgi said that states cannot act like "super censor board" and issue such notifications or orders.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, who was representing Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana, urged the bench that the matter should be heard either tomorrow or on January 22 so that the states could go through all the documents and assist the court.

He said there were intelligence reports regarding law and order problem in these states in the event of exhibition of this movie and CBFC, while certifying the film, was neither supposed to know about the law and order situation, nor does it have the wherewithal to deal with it.

To this, the bench, which fixed the matter for further hearing on March 26, said it had left the matter relating to certification of the movie to the CBFC and the board has given it a certificate now.

"Please try to understand. Let the film be released," the bench told the ASG, adding a movie might not be so successful at the box office and people might not go to watch it, but it's exhibition cannot be prohibited like this.

During the arguments, Salve said that CBFC was "extra cautious" and had issued a certificate to the movie under the Cinematograph Act after an expert committee, constituted to examine it, had suggested few cuts which have already been carried out.

He argued that disclaimers have also been put in the film and notifications and order issued by the states prohitibing exhibition of the film was against the provisions of the Act.

Salve and Rohatgi referred to the 2011 verdict of the top court in M/s Prakash Jha Productions case which was about the decision taken by some states suspending screening of the film 'Aarakshan' for a specified period.

They argued that in the 2011 verdict, the apex court had said it was for states to maintain law and order in their respective domains and once CBFC has cleared the film for public viewing, its screening cannot be prohibited like this.

The issue of alleged distortion of history was also raked up before the court and Salve referred to the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.

However, Mehta contended that "history may be distorted but somebody showing Gandhiji sipping whisky, then the country will have objection".

"Freedom of Expression and Speech can never include distortion in our country," the ASG said.

The bench said these matters were to be looked into by the censor board.

Salve countered the submissions of Mehta saying, "This is lawlessness. The states cannot say we have political obligations to cater to, so we will not allow screening of a film." He said the Centre should not "support" these states due to "political compulsion" and must direct them to comply with the CBFC certification.

During the hearing, Rohatgi said that, "States have to maintain law and order. When the CBFC has passed the film, states can't do it (Prohibit exhibition of film). They can't be a super censor board." The bench, while referring to several literary works, plays and movies, said that it was concerned that a film was being prohibited from exhibition like this.

The producers had submitted that the movie has undergone changes including in its title as suggested by the CBFC.

Asserting that the film has been cleared by the CBFC, the plea said the states cannot impose a blanket ban on a film and its screening can be suspended in a particular area or areas on account of law and order problem, not across the states.

The set of the movie was vandalised twice -- in Jaipur and Kolhapur, while its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was roughed up by members of the Karni Sena last year.



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