New Delhi: Marquee lawyer Harish Salve won his case today, with the Supreme Court ruling that states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh cannot ban the screening of "Padmaavat" given that it has been cleared for release by the country's censor board which certifies films.
Mr Salve's strong arguments on behalf of Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, the film's producers, set him trending on Twitter. The top court ruled that states cannot stop the release of films by citing potential law and order problems.
Mr Salve described the ban on the film by four states as "constitutional breakdown" and argued for the freedom of speech and creative liberty.
"They say we are distorting history. It was not the intention of the makers to distort history but someday, I want to argue how artists should be allowed to distort history as well," Mr Salve remarked during a back-and-forth with the government in the 50-minute hearing.
The period extravaganza starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor will be released on January 25.
Additional Solicitor general Tushar Mehta , representing states that had refused to screen the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, countered: "No, it can't be. Freedom of expression and speech can never include distortion in our country. History can be twisted as Mahatma Gandhi sipping whisky."
The senior lawyer suggested to his rival that he "watch the movie called Jesus Christ - Superstar". But "that's not Indian standard", Mr Mehta protested.
The banter was shared by many on Twitter.
"Padmaavat" is inspired by Rajput Queen Padmini, a legendary 13th-century beauty who preferred to jump into a pyre and commit "Johar" (mass self-immolation) instead of submitting to Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji, who was obsessed with her.
Rajput groups protesting against the film allege that it denigrates a proud and glorious queen and twists history. Their protests stalled the movie's release in December. Earlier this year, the Central Board of Film Certification or the censor board cleared its release but asked the makers to change the title from "Padmavati" to "Padmaavat" and make other modifications.
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said: "If you go by the arguments against films, I have no hesitation in saying 60 per cent of the classical literature cannot be read."