The Supreme Court rejected a plea on Monday to stop the release of Deepika Padukone starrer Padmavati, saying the Bollywood film is yet to get the censor board’s clearance.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the top court cannot stop a statutory body such as the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) from carrying out its duty.
“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?” the Chief Justice asked the petitioner, a lawyer.
The Sanjay Leela Bhansali film has been embroiled in controversy since its shooting began in January, with fringe outfits alleging it distorts history. The film, based on an epic poem, explores the relationship of a Rajput queen and Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji. The movie was due to open on December 1 but its producers postponed the release.
Members of hardline groups and the BJP have criticised the film, accusing Bhansali of distorting history by showing the Muslim aggressor as the Hindu queen’s “lover”.
Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, both ruled by the BJP, banned it outright. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Monday the film will not be allowed to be screened in the state if historical facts are “distorted”.
The Supreme Court refused to step into the censor board’s domain as it rejected the lawyer-petitioner’s appeal for a stay on the film’s release and for criminal prosecution against director Bhansali.
“Five members see a movie. Once they see it, they discuss among themselves and suggest cuts. Before they do anything, they give the filmmakers an opportunity to be heard to convince them not to cut the scenes in question,” the bench noted.
This is the second petition against Padmavati the top court refused to accept.
The bench said: “All this happens because people don’t read the cinematograph act and rules.”
In case of a grievance, the court suggested moving the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.
The petitioner argued that the movie indulged in “character assassination” of the 13th-century Rajput queen Padmavati, played by Padukone.
He objected to the release of movie’s songs without the CBFC’s certification.
But senior advocates Harish Salve and Shyam Divan, appearing for the filmmakers, said only promos and audios were released “that do not require approval”.
The court order came on a day the BJP asked one of its senior members to apologise publicly after he offered a Rs10-crore reward for anyone who beheaded Padukone for her role in Padmavati.
The BJP ordered Suraj Pal Amu, a senior member from Haryana, to explain why he offered a reward on the weekend to behead both Padukone and director Bhansali.
Padukone, whose secusity was increased after the threats, pulled out of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend on November 28 in Hyderabad.
Bhansali was attacked on set in January by a Rajput organisation. Some Rajputs believe that the queen chose self-immolation to reject the Muslim king’s advances.
(with agency inputs)