New Delhi: "Padmaavat" cannot be banned by states on grounds of risk to public order, the Supreme Court ruled today on the film that at least four states refused to screen over fierce protests by Rajput groups. "When bandit queen can be released, why not this movie?" questioned Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, referring to the controversial 1994 movie based on the life of dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi.
- "Padmaavat" can't be banned by states, the Supreme Court said
- 4 states - Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh - had banned film
- Producers had gone to the court against the ban by four states
The producers of the big-ticket period drama, which will be released on January 25, had challenged the ban announced by Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. The top court said it is the responsibility of the states to ensure peace.
"A film may bomb at the box office or people may choose to not watch it, but states cannot use their machinery to prohibit its exhibition citing risk to public order," said the judges.
The producers, Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, had referred to a past Supreme Court order that a film cannot be banned based on anticipated law and order trouble.
"If states are banning a film, then it destroys the federal structure. States can't touch the content of a film. If anybody has a problem, they can approach the appellate tribunal," argued senior lawyer Harish Salve on behalf of Padmaavat's producers.
Protesters led by the fringe group Karni Sena have threatened to vandalise theatres that screen the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapur and Ranveer Singh.
A Rajasthan official said the state government would examine the Supreme Court order. It would be "difficult" to screen the film because of the protests, said the official, not ruling out an appeal.
"Padmaavat" is inspired by a poem on Rajput Queen Padmini, a legendary beauty who chose to jump into a pyre and commit "Johar" (mass self-immolation) instead of submitting to Sultan Alauddin Khilji after he killed her husband.
Amid massive controversy over Rajput groups alleging denigration of the Queen and distortion of history, the film was given the go-ahead by the Central Board of Film Certification or the censor board, which had asked the makers to change the title from "Padmavati" to "Padmaavat" and suggested some other modifications.
"If you go by the arguments against films, I have no hesitation in saying 60 per cent of the classical literature cannot be read," said Chief Justice Misra.