The Supreme Court has lifted the ban order on the controversial film Padmavat in six northern states and cleared its release across the country, giving `creative freedom' prominence over public sentiment.
An apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra also restrained all states from banning Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavat, a film allegedly based on the life of a fictional Rajput princess Padmavati.
''Creative freedom, freedom of speech and expression can't be guillotined... artistic freedom has to be protected,'' the apex court said.
The CJI said that even Bandit Queen passed the test of the court. "In Delhi High Court, I had also given a judgment on Dhobi Ghat. I dismissed the petition to ban the movie by imposing a cost of Rs25,000 on the petitioner," he said.
The SC bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud on Wednesday considered the submission of the counsel of Viacom 18 and other producers of the film who urged an immediate hearing of the plea as the movie was set for all-India release on 25 January.
The court discarded pleas by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who sought more time to present the state governments' views.
"Give us a day at least. We will demonstrate the reasons. It is not a case where a man is going to be hanged in a day," he pleaded before the court.
Governments of Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand have declared that they will not allow screening of the movie, which also stars Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in lead roles.
The producers moved the top court through senior lawyer Harish Salve and advocate Mahesh Agarwal and submitted, in a petition, that the movie has undergone changes, including in its title, as suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Asserting that the film has been cleared by the CBFC, the plea said the states cannot impose a blanket ban on a film and its screening can be suspended in a particular area or areas on account of law and order problem, not across the states.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had taken the view that the release of the movie cannot be stalled after the authorised body, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), clears it.
The apex court had also expressed unhappiness over remarks made by politicians over the movie and asked them to desist from reacting as they could prejudice censor board's decision.
"When a matter is pending for consideration before the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), how can persons in public authority comment on whether the CBFC should issue a certificate or not? It will prejudice the decision of CBFC," the bench had then said.
Meanwhile, in Chandigarh, Rajput leader Suraj Pal Amu, who had reportedly offered a Rs10-crore bounty for beheading "Padmavaat" actor Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, today said he will continue to protest the film in a peaceful manner.
"I will continue to protest in a peaceful manner. I do not mind if I am hanged for it," Amu said after the Supreme Court paved the way for an all-India release of the controversy-ridden film on 25 January.
"We respect the court order. We are educated people, we respect the law. But we have the right to peaceful protest, which we have been doing. We believe the film hurts the sentiments of the Rajput community," PTI quoted Amu as saying over the phone.
Amu had, on 29 November last year, resigned as chief media coordinator of the BJP's state unit, days after the party served a show-cause notice to him for the bounty offer.
At a function of the Rajput community in Delhi in November, Amu had said, "How can we allow somebody to distort history and mislead the people by projecting the heroic character of Rani Padmavati in a poor light while glorifying the villains of history. We will not allow the release of this film at any cost."
The Manohar Lal Khattar government on Monday banned the film's screening in Haryana.
The film, which stars Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in lead roles, had faced opposition from various quarters, including the Rajput community.