The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on Tuesday the pleas of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments, seeking recall of its January 18 orders allowing the screening of controversial Bollywood film Padmaavat in theatres across India on the grounds that its release would create “law and order” problems in the two states.
The apex court had, on January 18, paved way for the nationwide release of the movie on January 25 by lifting the ban put by states like Gujarat and Rajasthan on its screening.
It had also restrained other states from issuing orders banning the Deepika Padukone-starrer, based on the saga of a historic 13th century battle between Maharaja Ratan Singh and his army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi.
“List the applications for hearing tomorrow,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said when the counsel for both states mentioned the interim applications seeking modification of the order that has allowed the screening of the film.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the movie producer Viacom 18, opposed urgent hearing on the pleas saying it was “unfortunate” the way things were happening despite the apex court order.
Meanwhile, two bodies which have been protesting against the film -- Shree Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena and Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha, also moved the apex court seeking their impleadment as parties, opposing its release on grounds including that it hurt the sentiments of the community.
Madhya Pradesh, in its plea, has submitted that section 6 of the Cinematograph Act empowers the state to stop exhibition of any controversial movie on the grounds of possible violation of law and order.
Rajasthan, in its application, has referred to several recent incidents of violence that has taken place in there and sought modification of the order to the extent that the movie is not allowed to be released in the state.
Referring to a local law that empowered Rajasthan to stall the exhibition of a movie, it said, “the administrative machinery of the state is the best judge of the conditions prevailing in the state and the state administration is best equipped to have inputs of any likelihood of breach of peace and disturbance in law and order.”
“The state of Rajasthan is duty bound to comply with the... directions with all the sincerity. However, it is also necessary that this court may also take note of the situation in the state where ‘Rani Padmavati’, is treated as a warrior who committed ‘Jauhar’ with several other women to protect her/their honour, and after her sacrifice, the Rajput men died fighting on the battlefield.
“People, worship ‘Rani Padmavati’, not simply as a ‘historical character’ but she has been given a status of ‘goddess’ who defended her honour against a Muslim invader,”Rajasthan said in its plea.
Ahead of the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat on January 25, leaders of the Shree Rajput Karni Sena met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday and demanded a ban on the film in the state.
“I met the UP chief minister Adityanath today and demanded a ban on the film Padmaavat,” Karni Sena patron Lokendra Singh Kalvi told reporters after a 20-minute meeting with Adityanath.
People will impose ‘janta curfew’ in cinema halls in Uttar Pradesh if the movie is screened, he added.
“The present application is moved by Rajasthan to bring to the notice of this court the circumstances and the actual ground realities which have been supported by intelligence reports stating that in case the film Padmaavat earlier named as ‘Padmavati’ is publicly exhibited in cinema halls in Rajasthan, it will causes disturbance of law and order in many areas which the CBFC could not have considered...,” it said.
The state also cited upcoming by-elections and intelligence inputs to support its plea and said there may be law and order problems if the film is released.
“If the film is released in the state, there is every likelihood of strong opposition from Rajput Community and supporters of Shree Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena and apart from creating law and order problems, they can also indulge in damaging cinema halls, rioting and traffic jam,” it said.
Earlier, the apex court had not only set aside the ban put by certain states on the release of the movie, but had also asked other states not to take similar recourse.
“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, who was heading the bench, had said.
Maintaining that states were under constitutional obligation to maintain law and order, the to court had said this duty also included providing police protection to persons involved in the film, its exhibition and the audience.
The top court had 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.
Protests against the release of movie ‘Padmaavat’
A large number of people holding saffron flags and shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ burnt an effigy of Padmaavat director Sanjay Leela Bhansali in front of SRS cinema hall in Gorakhpur as they protested the movie’s release.
The protest was led by a local leader, Sandeep Singh, and featured members of organisations like Hindu Samaj, Shiv Rashtra Sena, Akhand Rashtravadi Sena, Rajputana Shaurya Foundation, and Kshatriya Mahasabha.
“The movie Padmaavat is hurting the feelings of Hindus and we are against its release. We will keep on protesting the movie and demand ban on its release,” Singh said.
In Gurgaon also, members of a group held a bike rally on Sunday and caused traffic jam, demanding a ban on the screening of the movie.
Some activists had on January 20 taken out a march at Ambala Cantonment and warned cinema hall owners against screening Padmaavat. They had threatened that their cinema halls would be ransacked if the movie was screened.