NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court refused on Friday to hear a fresh PIL seeking cancellation of the censor board’s clearance for the nationwide screening of the film “Padmaavat” as it could create massive law and order problems.
The PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma, who was forced by the SC a few months ago to withdraw his plea and await the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), challenged the U/A certificate granted to the film, saying it was given without following the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, which had cleared the film for all-India screening less than 24 hours ago, was somewhat surprised to find a fresh PIL. While clearing the release of the film, the SC had put a premium on artistic expression and its inseparable link with the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The bench said, “We had clearly said on Thursday that once the CBFC grants clearance after the filmmaker carries out suggested changes, there is no law that can ban screening of a movie.”
When Sharma said the SC had only examined the statutory power of state governments to ban screening of a film under local laws and not the procedure adopted by the censor board to grant certification, the bench said, “We have seen the law as well as the process for clearance of the film under [the] Cinematograph Act.”
The advocate attempted to use the threats issued by fringe groups against screening of the film to project a law and order problem across the country. “Suppose there are riots and murders tomorrow because of screening of the film, then who will be responsible for it?” he asked.
The bench rebuked him for presenting such an argument. “The states had used this argument on Thursday to justify ban on screening of the film despite CBFC certification. We did not accept it. And today, you are presenting the same argument,” it said.
When Sharma persisted with the law-and-order argument, the bench said, “We as Supreme Court function as a constitutional court. It is not our job to maintain law and order. We declare what is correct in law. Maintenance of law and order is the constitutional duty of state governments.” It refused to grant early hearing to the petitioner.
On Thursday, the SC had lifted the ban on the screening of the film and told all states that it was their duty to maintain law and order and provide security for screening of the film. “A spectre of fear cannot be allowed to prevail under the Constitution,” the court had said, making it loud and clear that in a country governed by the rule of law, fringe groups could never be permitted to hold filmmakers to ransom.