The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked people holding public office to desist from reacting on the Deepika Padukone-starrer Bollywood flick Padmavati, saying such statements violated the rule of law and could prejudice the censor board’s decision.
Politicians of all hues, including some chief ministers, have recently made public statements, mostly against the film based on the saga of the historic battle of 13th century between Maharaja Ratan Singh and his army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi.
“When a matter is pending for consideration before the Central Board of Film Certification, how can persons in public authority comment on whether the CBFC should issue certificate or not? It will prejudice the decision of CBFC,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, termed as “misconceived” and dismissed a fresh petition seeking an order to restrain Viacom 18, the maker of the film and others, from releasing it abroad.
It said when the courts were not making any observation keeping in mind that the CBFC has to perform its statutory duty, persons holding high offices should desist from making statements.
The bench asked the CBFC to take the decision on the certification of the movie with “utmost objectivity”.
In his plea, lawyer M L Sharma had also sought a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation to register a case against director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and others for various offences including defamation and violation of the Cinematography Act.
The bench expressed “shock” at certain objectionable contents of the petition and termed them “unwarranted” and “scurrilous” and ordered their deletion.
The court said it was not imposing costs on the lawyer for filing such a petition as he was a practising lawyer of the apex court.
It took serious note of the statements made by politicians, holding high public offices, on the movie, saying these tantamounted to pre-judging the movie which is yet to be certified by the CBFC.
“This is not done,” the bench said, adding, “One thing which we must say is that when the matter is pending and going to be dealt with by the CBFC, no one, who is holding public office, should be saying something which would tantamount to pre-judging and may prejudice the mind of CBFC.”
“It should be borne in mind that we all are governed by the Rule of Law,” it said, adding that when persons holding responsible positions say certain things on the content of the movie, it violated the rule of law.
The bench asked Additional Solicitors General Maninder Singh and P S Narasimha to convey their views that such statements should not be made as they violated the principle of Rule of Law.
At the outset, senior advocates Harish Salve and Shyam Divan, appearing for the producers, informed the court that there was no intention to release the movie abroad on December 1, as alleged.
The petition had alleged that grave damage will be done to social harmony if the movie is allowed to be released outside India.
Earlier too, the apex court had dismissed his plea seeking deletion of certain alleged objectionable scenes from movie.
Viacom 18, the makers of the film, had said they have deferred the movie’s release which was originally slated for December 1.
Image: A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie Padmavati outside a theatre in Mumbai. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters